Huthifa Fayyad & Nadda Osman
Middle East Eye / January 19, 2022
Israeli forces violently storm house, arresting several family members, including the father Mahmoud Salhiya.
Israeli forces raided the Salhiya home in Sheikh Jarrah in occupied East Jerusalem in the early hours of Wednesday, violently arresting and assaulting family members, before emptying the house and demolishing it.
At around 3am local time, a large number of police units, including counter-terrorism and riot police forces accompanied with bulldozers, stormed the Salhiya house.
Yasmin Salhiya, a resident of the house and daughter of the owner Mahmoud Salhiya, told Middle East Eye the large Israeli force had cut off electricity from the house as they raided it, and started firing tear gas, blocking everyone’s vision.
Yasmin said officers then assaulted the family and arrested five of its members, including Mahmoud. Around 22 supporters who were camping inside the property in solidarity with the family were also assaulted and detained.
“My father was asleep when they took him. They didn’t let him put a jacket or shoes on,” Yasmin told MEE.
“They separated everyone that was there and started beating the young men before detaining them in the jeeps and taking them away.”
Among those assaulted were Yasmin’s nine-year-old sister Ayah and their aunt.
“They shoved Ayah and assaulted her father, her brothers and her aunt right in front of her. She is distraught,” Yasmin said.
After emptying the houses, Israeli forces started firing rubber bullets at journalists and supporters who were outside the house and prevented ambulances from accessing the site, Yasmin said.
Bulldozers finished the demolition three hours later, leaving the house in ruins and the family’s possessions scattered on the ground.
The demolition and displacement of the family took place amid heavy rains and cold temperatures, forcing the remainder of the family to seek refuge with relatives.
Eighteen people lived on the property in two adjacent houses, including Mahmoud, his wife and children, his mother and his sister’s family.
“To see the home that I grew up in with my family in this state, I don’t know how to describe my feelings,” Yasmin said.
“We will go back to our home. No matter what they do to us, we will go back.”
“Our message to everyone is stay in your homes. Don’t leave it. Don’t sell it. We’re losing Palestine a bit by bit.”
‘I want to live with dignity’
Ahmad al-Qadmani, the family’s lawyer, told MEE that Israeli forces took advantage of the quiet of the night to carry out the demolition.
The lawyer said that they had tried to stall the demolition by filing an appeal in court, however, it continued regardless.
“We submitted an appeal to the supreme court yesterday to freeze the demolition order, but we have not heard back until now… it’s an aggressive attack that violates laws and regulations,” he added.
On Monday, Israeli forces attempted to expel the Salhiya family from their home as they raided the land it stands on and destroyed five businesses he owned.
Mahmoud then barricaded himself on the roof of the house and threatened to set fire to himself and the house if Israeli forces tried to remove him.
After a 10-hour standoff, Israeli forces left the area and supporters and journalists were able to come inside. Since then, dozens of people have visited the house to show support, some staying overnight in fear of a late Israeli raid.
“I want to live with dignity or die,” Mahmoud told MEE on Monday.
“I was going to set myself alight because every day I am dying, I’ve been dying for 25 years,” he added, referring to decades-long pressure he faced to sell or give up the land.
“Death is better than to stand and watch your home being destroyed… we are dying every day.
“We have been expelled from our homeland again and again. We are already dead. We are dead inside. We have been dead since 1948,” said Mahmoud.
Mahmoud’s family has been facing expulsion since 2017, when their land was allocated for school construction, following 23 years in courts against the Israeli government, which issued an ultimatum in December for evacuation on 25 January.
Israel’s Jerusalem municipality argues that the Salhiyas have no right over the land that once belonged to the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem Amin al-Husseini, which Israel confiscated after it captured the city in 1967 according to the Absentee Property Law.
Mahmoud says the family has owned the house and lived in it for generations since they were expelled by Zionist militia from Ain Karem in 1948 during the Palestinian Nakba, or catastrophe, the war that led to Israel’s creation.
Sheikh Jarrah has been a significant flashpoint over the past year after Israel tried to expel Palestinian families from the area last May to make way for Israeli settlers.
The events had led to widespread protests across the occupied West Bank and the 48 Palestinian community inside Israel, as well as a large-scale military operation in the besieged Gaza Strip.
Huthifa Fayyad is a freelancer
Nadda Osman is a British-Egyptian journalist