The Israeli police demolished the home of the Palestinian Salhia family in the disputed Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of occupied East Jerusalem.
Yesterday, the police forces withdrew from the area, which has been in tension since Monday, after a family member threatened to detonate a gas cylinder if the forces entered his house with the aim of evacuating it.
But the Israeli forces returned at dawn today to storm the house and arrest those inside it, before bulldozers demolish it.
The daughter of Mahmoud Salhia, the owner of the house, said that the Israeli forces suddenly stormed the house and assaulted her father while he was sleeping before arresting him and 26 other people, including a number of people in solidarity with the family, after the attack on them.
The BBC Arabic correspondent in Jerusalem, Muhannad Totenji, said that the police withdrew from the neighborhood after completing the eviction and demolition process.
The Salhiya family has faced an eviction threat since 2017, when the Jerusalem municipality decided to allocate the land on which the house is located for the construction of a school.
An Israeli court had earlier upheld the Jerusalem municipality’s decision to confiscate the land, and gave the family until the 25th of this month to vacate the house in preparation for its demolition.
On Monday, dozens of riot police surrounded the family’s home in a confrontation that lasted for hours, Reuters news agency reported. Roads were also closed around the area, one kilometer north of the walls of Jerusalem’s Old City, which saw clashes erupt last year between Palestinians and groups of Jewish settlers.
The police and the Jerusalem municipality issued a joint statement saying that negotiators went to the house at dawn on Monday to implement an eviction order after the Salhiya family ignored “countless opportunities” to vacate the land as they were ordered.
The family had demanded to postpone the decision to evict her pending a court session to consider the matter next Sunday.
Mahmoud Salhia said yesterday that his lawyer had submitted a petition to the Israeli Supreme Court to annul the eviction decision.
Allegra Pacheco of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) has described the Israeli authorities’ actions as “illegal”.
She added, “The demolition and eviction of civilians from the occupied territories is a violation of international law as long as it does not involve a military necessity. Accordingly, we do not see any military reason for any evictions and demolitions, and we call on the Israeli government to stop all these measures that appear to be in violation of international law.”
Last year saw the outbreak of an 11-day war in Gaza between Israel and the Palestinians, fueled by anger in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood as families resist orders to evacuate their homes.
Hundreds of Palestinians are facing eviction orders from their homes in Sheikh Jarrah and other neighborhoods in East Jerusalem.
The reasons for the evictions vary, for example, Israelis have filed lawsuits demanding the return of land they say was illegally taken during the 1948 war.
The Palestinians reject those allegations, saying their homes were legally purchased from the Jordanian authorities, which controlled East Jerusalem between 1948 and 1967.
Earlier, seven Palestinian families in Sheikh Jarrah filed judicial appeals to the Israeli Supreme Court against threats of eviction, not including the Salhia family.
Israel occupied East Jerusalem in the 1967 war and later annexed it, in a move not recognized by the international community.
More than 200,000 Jewish settlers have entered the area since then, raising tensions with the Palestinians, who claim East Jerusalem as the capital of their state.
The roots of the case
The legal battle, which extends for years, began by Jewish settler organizations seeking to “reclaim the ownership of lands that were owned by Jews” in East Jerusalem before the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948.
Palestinian residents say Jordan gave them homes on the land after they were expelled from their towns that became part of what became known as Israel.
In 1956, when Jerusalem was still under Jordanian administration, the Jordanian authorities leased plots of land to Palestinian families, and the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees built homes on them. The Jordanian government promised at the time to register the land in their names, but the process did not take place, as Israel occupied Jerusalem after the 1967 war and annexed it, later, in a move that was not recognized by most of the international community.
In 1970, Israel enacted a law allowing Jews to regain ownership of “their lands they lost in 1948 in East Jerusalem”, even if Palestinians lived on them. But this option is not available to the Palestinians who have lost their land and property.
And Israeli courts have previously issued decisions regarding the entitlement of a group of settlers, in the houses that were built on land owned by Jews before the 1948 war, in the Sheikh Jarrah area.