Israeli police on Tuesday evicted a Palestinian family from the East Jerusalem home in which they lived for decades, making way for Israelis deemed by the Supreme Court to be the rightful owners of the property.
The Shamasneh family has for years been fighting a court battle against Jewish claimants who said that the building was their family property, which they fled when East Jerusalem was occupied by Jordanian troops in the 1948 war amid the creation of the Jewish state.
Under Israeli law, Jews who can prove that their families lived in East Jerusalem homes before the 1948 war can demand that Israel’s general custodian office release the property and return their “ownership rights.”
During the war, thousands of Jews fled Jerusalem as Jordanian-led Arab forces seized the city, while hundreds of thousands of Palestinians fled from land that was later to become Israel.
No such law exists for Palestinians who lost their land.
In 2013, the Israeli Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Jewish claimants, who subsequently sold the property on to unspecified owners. The court determined that the Shamasnehs were unable to prove residency prior to 1968, as is required in order to receive “protected tenant” status. Rather, while the family claimed to have been resident since 1964 — though not always with a lease — the Israeli judiciary found they had been resident since 1972.
An AFP journalist on Tuesday saw young Jewish men moving into the building after the Shamasnehs were escorted out by police.
Fahamiya Shamasneh, 75, told AFP that police arrived before dawn ordering her, her sick husband Ayoub, 84, their son and his family out of the house in the upscale Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood, where she said they had lived for 53 years.
“What greater injustice is there than this?” she said. “Maybe we will sleep in the street.”
It was the first eviction in the neighborhood since 2009, according to Israeli anti-settlement group Peace Now.
Last year, Israeli authorities evicted an Arab family from its home in the Muslim Quarter of Jerusalem’s Old City, following a decision by the Supreme Court that ruled the decades-long tenants had to make way for the building’s Jewish owners.
Israel sees the city as its undivided capital, while the Palestinians want the eastern sector as their future capital.
Peace Now said the house is part of a larger process of establishing settlements in Sheikh Jarrah.
“Settlers are already inside the Shamasneh family’s home,” it said in a statement Tuesday morning.
“The eviction of the Shamasneh family, who resided in the house since 1964, is not only brutal but it is also indicating a dangerous trend that could threaten a future compromise in Jerusalem,” it said.