Egypt sharply protests Sheikh Jarrah evictions
Egypt sent a strongly worded protest to Israel yesterday over the eviction of two Palestinian families from their homes in East Jerusalem's Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood.
"This is an act of dispossessing Arabs of their property," the message said, according to an Israeli government source. "Israel's moves are sabotaging Egypt's efforts to advance the regional peace process."
"We demand that you stop the expulsion and oppression of Jerusalem Arabs," the message continued. "Any change on the ground in Jerusalem must be in the framework of peace talks with the Palestinian Authority."
The message was delivered to Ambassador to Cairo Shalom Cohen by Hossam Zaki, who is Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit's bureau chief and has often served as his envoy to Israel, the government source said.
Cohen tried to explain that the homes in question have been Jewish-owned for more than 80 years, and the eviction was ordered by a court because the Palestinian tenants violated the terms of their rental contract. However, this failed to mollify Zaki.
Sweden, which holds the European Union's rotating presidency, also denounced the evictions yesterday, terming them "unacceptable." Such acts are "illegal under international law" and "contravene repeated calls by the international community ... to refrain from any provocative actions in East Jerusalem," it said in a statement.
The evictions "confirm a worrying trend that runs counter to the creation of an atmosphere conducive to achieving a viable and credible solution" to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the statement added.
The two families were evicted before dawn on Sunday by hundreds of policemen, after the Jerusalem District Court ordered their departure. Jewish families have already entered in their stead, with the consent of the owner, the Sephardic Community Committee, which has owned both houses since before the establishment of the state.
The evicted families, Palestinians who fled West Jerusalem during the War of Independence in 1948, were settled in these houses by the United Nations and the Jordanian government, which captured East Jerusalem during that war. When Israel captured East Jerusalem in 1967, the courts awarded the families protected tenant status. However, the district court ruled, even protected tenants must abide by the terms of their rental contracts, and these tenants failed to do so.