The European Union condemned Thursday the "worrying trend of increasing numbers of demolitions and evictions in the West Bank, including in East Jerusalem," one day after the after police razed a Palestinian home in the flashpoint neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah.
The statement issued by EU spokesperson Peter Stano highlighted the decision by the Jerusalem municipality to "advance a plan for the construction of more than 1,450 settlement-housing units" in East Jerusalem, warning that the plan "undermines the possibility of Jerusalem serving as the future capital of both States."
France, Germany, Italy and Spain issued their own joint statement on Wednesday, calling on Israel to "permanently halt eviction and demolition of Palestinian structures in East Jerusalem" and the West Bank.
"We are deeply concerned by the recent developments in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of East Jerusalem," a statement by the countries added. Around 3:30 A.M. on Wednesday, police raided the house and forcefully evicted the family and activists, using stun grenades. At least 18 people were arrested, said Attorney Walid Abu Thaya, who represents the family.
Five years ago, the municipality announced that it was expropriating the land to build a school there. Since then, the Salhiye family has fought a legal battle to head off their eviction, but they have been unable to prove ownership of the property. In any event, even if they could prove that they own the land, the municipality has the right to expropriate it for public purposes in exchange for monetary compensation.
The four European countries also highlighted the East Jerusalem settlement plan, saying they "are deeply concerned at the decision to advance plans for the construction of hundreds of new housing units in East Jerusalem, including between Givat HaMatos and Har Homa. The new housing units would further disconnect the West Bank from East Jerusalem and constitute an additional obstacle to the Two-State Solution. We urge the Israeli authorities to reverse this decision."
In October, Jerusalem’s local planning committee approved the expropriation of land in Givat Hamatos and approved the filing of plans for expanding Pisgat Ze’ev. Givat Hamatos, E1, Atarot and Pisgat Ze’ev – these are all areas in or around Jerusalem that lie beyond Israel’s 1967 borders, where the state is currently advancing extensive building plans for Jews.
In January, Israel postponed the discussion on settlement construction in the West Bank's E1 area to an unknown date.
Also on Wednesday, the United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Tor Wennesland urged Israel to stop evictions and approve building plans for Palestinians. "I call on Israeli authorities to end the displacement and eviction of Palestinians," Wennesland told the UN Security Council. The UN envoy also called on Israel to "approve additional plans that would enable Palestinian communities to build legally and address their development needs."
Wennesland presented the situation of the four building plans Israel is advancing and said that "all settlements are illegal under international law and remain a substantial obstacle to peace."