US slams eviction of 2 Arab families in e. J'lem

Sheikh Jarrah op relatively peaceful; Jewish families move into homes, smash windows and walls.

Sheikh Jarrah eviction 248.88 (photo credit: AP)
Sheikh Jarrah eviction 248.88
(photo credit: AP)
Drawing an immediate round of international and domestic condemnation, two Arab families were forcibly evicted from their homes in the capital's Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood before dawn Sunday after the Supreme Court ruled in favor of Jewish families who claim ownership of the properties, in what the US has called violations of Israel's obligations which "will not be recognized by the international community." A large number of police and border police officers arrived at the homes, and while no serious disturbances were reported, some neighborhood residents clashed with security personnel during the eviction. The entire neighborhood was effectively put under curfew at 3 a.m., D., an activist who has been sleeping in the home of one of the families to express solidarity and who asked to remain anonymous, told The Jerusalem Post. The curfew was lifted on Sunday afternoon, after the evictions. Earlier, the Jewish claimants arrived at the scene, ready to move into the homes. The Arab families, who were given eviction notices several weeks ago, cooperated with police, but expressed anger at the move nonetheless. "I was born in this house and my children were also born in this house. I have documents from the Jordanian government," Maher Hanoun, one of the evacuees, told Army Radio. "Now the settlers have moved into my home and I'm on the street. Where will I go?" Jerusalem Police spokesman Shmuel Ben-Ruby told the Post on Sunday that the police had acted in accordance with the court's decision. "The security forces carried out their job in accordance with the law," he said. "There were no major incidents reported." The eviction notices were issued for two families, the Hanouns and the Ghawis. While the Hanouns were living in a single house, the Ghawis' building was divided into six apartments. The eviction notice for them was issued for a member of the family who lived in one of the apartments. Both D. and L., another activist who has been supporting the families and who also asked to remain unnamed, said that when the Jewish claimants entered the property at the crack of dawn, their first move was to demolish the walls separating the six apartments, in an effort to prevent a legal technicality by which the rest of the Ghawi family might claim they had not been ordered to evacuate. D. told the Post that the claimants also smashed all the windows in the building. As of Sunday afternoon, the Ghawi family was sitting on the sidewalk behind a police barrier, with nowhere to sleep on Sunday night. L., who was still on the scene late Sunday afternoon, told the Post that a hearing was scheduled for Monday morning to verify whether the actions of the Jewish claimants after the evictions were lawful. The Supreme Court ordered the evictions following an appeal by the Nahalat Shimon International organization, which said the Jewish families owned the properties, despite denials from the United Nations and Palestinian groups. State Department spokeswoman Megan Mattson said such actions in east Jerusalem constitute violations of Israel's obligations under US-backed "road map" peace plan. "Unilateral actions taken by either party cannot prejudge the outcome of negotiations and will not be recognized by the international community," she said in a statement. On Sunday morning, the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Robert Serry, slammed the evictions in a statement, calling them "provocative" and "unacceptable." "I deplore today's totally unacceptable actions by Israel, in which Israeli security forces evicted Palestinian refugee families registered with UNRWA from their homes in the Arab neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah in East Jerusalem to allow settlers to take possession of these properties," the statement read. "These actions are contrary to the provisions of the Geneva Conventions related to occupied territory. They also contravene the united calls of the international community, including the Quartet's, which in its recent statement urged the government of Israel to refrain from provocative actions in East Jerusalem, including house demolitions and evictions." The British Consulate, which is located in Sheikh Jarrah along with a number of other foreign missions, also released a statement on Sunday, saying it was "appalled" by the eviction. "The Israelis' claim that the imposition of extremist Jewish settlers into this ancient Arab neighborhood is a matter for the courts or the municipality is unacceptable," the statement read. "These actions are incompatible with the Israeli professed desire for peace. We urge Israel not to allow the extremists to set the agenda." The houses in question are located near the Shepherd Hotel, where the Obama administration recently protested plans to build 20 new apartments. Two weeks ago, the State Department summoned Ambassador to the US Michael Oren over the plans and told him they should be suspended. Additionally, Ir Amim, a Jerusalem-based group that engages Palestinian-Israeli issues in the capital, also issued a statement condemning the evacuations, calling them "a dangerous move for expanding the Jewish settlements in east Jerusalem." "The expansion of the existing settlement, next to the Shepherd Hotel complex in Sheikh Jarrah, constitutes an additional step in the plan to take control of Jerusalem's historic basin by creating a contiguity of settlements, which will have grave consequences on the stability of the city and on its political future," Ir Amim's statement read. "In contrast to what has been claimed, the families of Hanoun and Ghawi, like the other Palestinian families that live in this compound, did not squat in these houses, but rather have been living in them since the 1950s, as a result of an official decision of the Jordanian government. "The State of Israel needs to reconsider the future consequences of this process, which allows Jews to claim ownership of property that belonged to them before 1948, but prevents the same claims from being realized by Palestinian residents. A general opening of ownership cases - Jews and Palestinians - from before 1948 could place the State of Israel in an impossible predicament in Jerusalem." AP contributed to this report.