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Jordan gives PA documents to help prevent Israeli evictions in East Jerusalem

FM travels to West Bank to hand over UN-certified deeds for homes in Sheikh Jarrah, which the kingdom says it built for Palestinians after 1948

Palestinians and left-wing activists protest against the expulsion of Palestinian families from their homes in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah. April 16, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Palestinians and left-wing activists protest against the expulsion of Palestinian families from their homes in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah. April 16, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

RAMALLAH, West Bank — Jordan’s top diplomat on Wednesday handed the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah documents intended to help prevent Israel from evicting Palestinian families from part of East Jerusalem, he said.

Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi made the trip to the West Bank after an Israeli court reportedly gave the families until May 2 to leave their homes in the predominantly Palestinian neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah or be evicted.

Jordan administered the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, until the 1967 Six Day War and remains the custodian of Muslim holy sites in Jerusalem.

The kingdom says it built homes for Palestinian refugees in East Jerusalem after the creation of the Jewish state in 1948.

Hundreds of Palestinians and left-wing Jewish activists demonstrate against the eviction of Palestinian residents from Sheikh Jarrah in East Jerusalem on Friday, April 16, 2021 (Aaron Boxerman/The Times of Israel)

“All the documents we hold on property and land in Jerusalem have been passed on to the Palestinian Authority,” Safadi told a news conference in Ramallah.

“We are cooperating with the Palestinian Authority and the international community to prevent the expulsion of the Palestinians in Sheikh Jarrah.”

Jordan’s foreign ministry said it had “found the documents proving that the ministry of development that built these houses had in 1956 finalized lease agreements for homes in Sheikh Jarrah.”

It said the contracts between the Jordanian government, which owned the houses, and Palestinian tenants, were certified by UNRWA, the United Nations agency for Palestinian refugees. According to the documents, the houses were for 28 families.

File: In a photo released by the Royal Hashemite Court, Jordan’s King Abdullah II gives a speech during the inauguration of the 19th Parliament’s non-ordinary session, in Amman Jordan, Thursday, Dec. 10, 2020. (Yousef Allan/The Royal Hashemite Court via AP)

Safadi said Jordan’s King Abdullah II considers Jerusalem “a red line.”

“There must be international action capable of stopping unilateral Israeli measures,” the minister added.

No comment from the Israeli authorities was immediately available.

Jordanian foreign ministry spokesman Dhaifallah Ali al-Fayez said the beneficiaries were Palestinian refugees who had fled their homes in 1948.

“After 1967, there have been repeated attempts by Israel to expel the Palestinians from their homes,” he told AFP.

Earlier this week, hundreds of left-wing activists demonstrated alongside local Palestinians against alleged police brutality and planned evictions in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah.

Palestinian demonstrators wave their national flag at a protest against the eviction of some Palestinians from Sheikh Jarrah in East Jerusalem on Friday, April 16, 2021 (Aaron Boxerman/The Times of Israel)

The evictions in Sheikh Jarrah and the accompanying protests have been ongoing for years. According to the left-wing nonprofit Ir Amim, some 600 eviction files — including 75 Palestinian families’ homes in Sheikh Jarrah  — are currently being examined by the Justice Ministry.

East Jerusalem Palestinians and their allies charge that the law discriminates against them, effectively allowing Jews to reclaim property in East Jerusalem even as Palestinians have no ability to make claims in the city’s Western Jewish-majority half.

Palestinian Fahamiya Shamasneh, 75, weeps as Israeli policemen evict her from her family home in the East Jerusalem Arab neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrach, September 5, 2017. (AFP PHOTO / Ahmad GHARABLI)

The expulsions, when they take place, are often the result of court battles extending over years or even decades. The litigation relies on a 1950 law that allows the Israeli government to reclaim the property of Palestinians deemed legally absent, as well as a 1970 law that provides a legal path for Jews to reclaim Jewish-owned property in East Jerusalem from before 1948.

Jerusalem’s status is one of the thorniest issues of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, with the international community insisting it must be negotiated by the two sides.

Israel views the whole city as its capital while the Palestinians want East Jerusalem to be the capital of their own future state.

Aaron Boxerman contributed to this report.

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