Israeli Court Freezes Sheikh Jarrah Eviction Amid Jerusalem Tensions

Police fear the evacuation of a Palestinian family for a Jewish settler group could have reignited violence in Jerusalem, particularly due to its timing, just before Ramadan

Nir Hasson
Nir Hasson
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Fatima Salem and left-wing activists at her home, December
Fatima Salem and left-wing activists at her home, DecemberCredit: Ohad Zwigenberg
Nir Hasson
Nir Hasson

A Jerusalem court suspended on Tuesday the evacuation of a Palestinian family from their home in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah, which had been slated for March.

The eviction order for the Salem family's house, which belonged to a Jewish family before 1948, stoked tensions in the area, where residents accuse Jewish settler groups of trying to push Palestinians out.

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Police sources and other officials believed the evacuation of the 11 family members could have reignited violence in Jerusalem. Police were particularly concerned over the timing of the planned eviction, close to Ramadan, which starts this year in early April.

The Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court’s decision will take effect as soon as the family deposits 25,000 shekels ($7,700) with the court as a guarantee. The settlers who are seeking the eviction on the grounds that they own the property must now submit a response to the family’s appeal.

The Salems leased the house from the Jordanian custodian of enemy property from 1951. After the Six Day War in 1967 the Israeli Custodian General returned it to the heirs of the Jewish family that lived there before 1948.

The lawyers 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.

Last year, 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.

In December, a court halted the Salem family's eviction after police asked the court registrar to postpone it, citing a security risk.

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.

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