BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) — A Palestinian family was evicted from their home of 53 years in the occupied East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah early Tuesday morning, culminating a protracted legal battle by which Israeli authorities claim the property belongs to Israeli settlers.
The displacement of the Shamasna family marked the first time since 2009 that a Palestinian family was evicted from Sheikh Jarrah, when a wave of Israeli settler ownership claims
targeted the neighborhood based on a law that allows Jewish Israelis to take control of property believed to have been owned by Jews before 1948.
Members of the Shamasna family told Ma’an that large numbers of Israeli police officers, special units, and intelligence officers stormed the house and forcibly evacuated the family before they started to move their furniture and belongings into a truck.
The family highlighted that Israeli forces closed all streets and entrances to the area and prevented reporters and neighbors from accessing the building.
Israeli settlement watchdog Peace Now reported later Tuesday morning that the settlers were already inside the house, while the Shamasna family looked on from outside. A reporter from Israeli newspaper The Jerusalem Post said on Twitter that three teenagers had occupied the building.
Owner of the house Ayyub Shamasna said that an Israeli magistrate’s court, district court, and the supreme court have all ruled that the house was a Jewish property.
The Shamasna’s appeal against the eviction was partly based on the health of 84-year-old Ayyub, who has lived in the house since 1964 and suffers from several illnesses. According to the appeal, the eviction could adversely affect his health and the health and his 75-year-old wife.
Many took to social media to document and denounce the evacuation, including the Palestinian Liberation Organization and Ahmad Tibi, member of the Arab Joint List coalition at Israel’s parliament, the Knesset.
Tibi highlighted that while the settlers can claim ownership of East Jerusalem properties based on the premise that they were owned by Jews before 1948, no such a law exists for the hundreds of thousands of Palestinian refugees who were displaced from their homes during the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948, and many Palestinians had owned property in West Jerusalem that were never allowed to return.
The family’s lawyer announced Monday, when the home was reportedly raided by Israeli forces
, that there was a warrant to delay the eviction but that it was possible that another hearing was held with the presence of the settlers only, according to Peace Now.
Inside the Shamasna home after settlers take over the building.
“After the Nakba, we paid rent to the Jordanian government’s Custodian of Enemy Property, and after the occupation of the West Bank in 1967, the property moved to the Custodian General of the Israeli occupation authorities, who then coerced all residents to sign a renewable yearly lease,” Muhammed Shamasna reiterated to Ma’an Tuesday morning.
“Then in 2009, they refused to renew the lease claiming that there were Jewish heirs. The alleged heirs filed legal procedures at Israeli courts asking to evacuate us, and since that time we have been fighting legal battles in courts to try and keep our house. A final decision to evacuate the house was made in 2016.”
Back in 2009, the Um Kamel al-Kurd, Ghawi, and Hanoun families were evicted from their homes in Sheikh Jarrah by Israeli settlers under similar ownership claims. Israeli settlers also partially took over the home of the al-Kurd family, where they have continued to reside side-by-side with the family.
Peace Now deplored the eviction in its statement. “The settlers, with the backing of the government, are utilizing a discriminatory law in order to change the status quo and Israelize Palestinian neighborhoods in East Jerusalem. The eviction of the Shamasna family, who resided in the house since 1964, is not only brutal but it is also indicating a dangerous trend that could threaten a future compromise in Jerusalem.”
Israelis have claimed that Sheikh Jarrah was once the site of a 19th century Jewish community. Many families in the neighborhood have been embroiled in legal disputes for decades, as various Israeli settlers have attempted to claim ownership over their homes.
Israeli rights group Ir Amim has noted that Israeli settler plans
have focused on taking control of the entire neighborhood and then demolishing it to establish a massive Jewish settlement, called Shimon HaTzadik — named after the tomb of the biblical figure Simeon the Just, which is believed by Jews to be located in the neighborhood.
Chris Gunness, the spokesperson for UNRWA, the United Nations agency responsible for Palestinian refugees, said in a statement last month
that, “It is a matter of deep concern that Palestine refugees who have already endured multiple displacements should be subject to the humiliation of the kind inflicted by forced evictions.”