Sheikh Jarrah family eviction frozen by Israeli court

Fatima Salem and her relatives are facing eviction from their home in the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood of occupied East Jerusalem AFP

Rosie Scammell

The National  /  February 22, 2022

UN representatives visited the Palestinian Salem family last week and urged the Israeli authorities to end forced evictions

An Israeli court on Tuesday froze the eviction of a Palestinian family from their home in Sheikh Jarrah, a neighbourhood in occupied East Jerusalem that has been a focal point of protest.

Three generations of the Salem family were due to be forced from their home next month, after an Israeli member of the city council obtained deeds to the property.

The Jerusalem magistrates court on Tuesday temporarily froze the eviction order, which could pave the way for appeal proceedings.

The temporary freeze follows concerns that the eviction could prompt mass protests and violence, after such scenes last year.

“The situation is a bit scary, but we’re staying put,” Fatima Salem, in her 70s, told The National.

“This is my house, my children’s house, my family’s house. It holds the smell of my mum and my dad,” she said.

Yonatan Yosef, the Israeli council member, did not immediately respond to an interview request.

Israel allows Jews to reclaim property in East Jerusalem if they hold deeds proving ownership before 1948, when Israel was established. Palestinians are banned from reclaiming property they owned in what became Israel.

Tensions have been mounting this month in Sheikh Jarrah, with Palestinian media reporting dozens of people were wounded in clashes with Israeli security forces.

The UN said members of the Salem family and their neighbours have been attacked with pepper spray and stones.

Far-right Israeli legislator Itamar Ben-Gvir set up a makeshift office outside the Salem home, which the politician said was a response to an alleged firebomb attack on an Israeli settler house next door.

The move drew crowds of Ben-Gvir’s supporters to Sheikh Jarrah along with Palestinian demonstrators.

Israeli police used stun grenades, mounted officers and water cannon to disperse protesters.

The force have also put barricades beside the Salem house and set up checkpoints in the neighbourhood.

The Palestinian family moved into the house in the 1950s, before Israel wrested control of the eastern part of the city from Jordan in 1967.

The presence of Israeli settlers in occupied territory such as East Jerusalem is deemed illegal by the international community, a claim disputed by Israel.

UN representatives visited the Salem family last week and urged the Israeli authorities to end forced evictions.

“Active steps must be taken to de-escalate the situation before another crisis erupts; we urge all political and community leaders to refrain from provocative action and rhetoric,” the UN’s humanitarian agency, OCHA, said on Friday.

Last year demonstrations mounted in Sheikh Jarrah over plans to evict other Palestinian families.

Protests in the neighbourhood and elsewhere in East Jerusalem were met with a heavy police response, leaving hundreds of Palestinians and dozens of Israeli officers wounded.

The violence was followed by an 11-day war between Israel and Gaza militants in May.

Rosie Scammell – Jerusalem correspondent