Sheikh Jarrah Family's Evacuation Delayed at Jerusalem Police Request

The right-wing Jerusalem council member who owns the rights to the house hopes to delay the Salem family's evacuation to a vague time frame in order to ensure its 'success.' The Palestinian family have lived there since 1951

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Fatima Salem and left-wing activists at her home, this month.
Fatima Salem and left-wing activists at her home, this month.Credit: Ohad Zwigenberg
Nir Hasson
Nir Hasson

A court halted the evacuation of a Palestinian family from their home in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah on Thursday, after police asked the court registrar to postpone the eviction, citing a security risk.

Earlier this week, the head of the European Union’s mission to the West Bank and Gaza Strip, Sven Kuhn von Burgsdorff, visited the Salem family, who have been living in their home in Sheikh Jarrah for the past 70 years. He blasted the eviction, calling it “inhuman and unfair.”

The authorities, equipped with a writ of execution, were scheduled to evict the Salems next week so that Jews could move into the house.

Before 1948 the house had belonged to a Jewish family, and the Salem family leased the house from the Jordanian custodian of enemy property from 1951.

After the Six Day War the house passed to the Israeli Custodian General, who returned it to its Jewish heirs. The lawyers acting for the Jewish heirs were financed by a right-wing NGO working to evict Palestinians and populate the neighborhood with Jews.

Some of the Jewish heirs sold their part of the property to the NGO. Recently right-wing activist and city council member Yonatan Yosef bought the rights to the building.

Two weeks ago, Yosef and another council member, deputy mayor Arieh King, served the eviction order to Fatima Salem, 72, who has lived in the house her entire life. Ten family members, including four children, live in the house.

The verdict to evict the house so that Jews could move into it was issued in 1988, but since then the settlers did little to drive the Palestinian family out of their home.

The house is located in the neighborhood’s western part, called Um Haroun. Recently tensions have been running high over the evacuation of Palestinian families in the east of the neighborhood, where residents are awaiting Israel's Supreme Court’s verdict after having turned down the justices’ compromise proposal.

The evacuation order says the family must evacuate the house by December 29. But on Thursday, lawyer David Hershkowitz, who represents Yosef, requested the execution authorities to postpone the evacuation and give them the option to evacuate the family at any time from January 20 to February 8. He attached a letter from the police asking to delay the evacuation.

“In keeping with recent goings-on in Jerusalem in general and in the Shalem station in particular, implementing the order at a specific date or a close date known in advance could endanger the forces and foil the evacuation’s success,” wrote Chief Inspector Eliran Hazan.

Court Registrar Idit Gur-Arie agreed to put off the evacuation and scheduled a hearing on the request to issue another order next Thursday.

A few days ago, 22 European diplomats visited the site, as part of the increasing media and diplomatic interest in the issue.

Burgsdorff said on the visit that he was “shocked” and urged Israel to halt the eviction.

“Eleven people living in the Salem family’s house are being threatened with eviction in the next few days, during Christmas and in the middle of the winter. For me, as a Christian, this is hard to conceive. This is occupied territory. People have a full right to live here. They were evacuated in 1948 from West Jerusalem and found shelter here. And after 70 years the authorities want to evict them again and turn them into refugees once more. This is inhuman and unfair. I’m here to express our frustration and anger,” he said

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