In February and March, courts in Israel approved the eviction of seven Palestinian families from their homes in Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood in occupied East Jerusalem. Illegal settlers will benefit from this.
Meanwhile, the Israeli-controlled Jerusalem municipality recommended the Israeli courts to confiscate forty per cent of the land in the neighbourhood to build a memorial for soldiers killed in the 1967 Six Day War which Israel launched on its neighbours. This will displace at least 28 Palestinian families totalling around 550 people, mostly children and women, who will be made homeless.
These eviction decisions are not the first Israeli aggression against the residents of Sheikh Jarrah. Since 1982, they have also been terrorised by settlers on a daily basis. In 2001, for example, settlers seized a number of Palestinian homes and evicted the indigenous inhabitants. And in 2008, the Israeli authorities evicted the first Palestinian family by force, since when the occupiers have taken more homes for the benefit of settlers' groups.
Sheikh Jarrah is considered to be one of the most important Palestinian residential areas in occupied Jerusalem. It is located north of the Old City and covers an area of about 200 acres in which there are around 2,800 residents, some of whom are Palestinian families displaced during the Nakba (Catastrophe) of 1948.
The neighbourhood was built in 1956 under an agreement signed between the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) and the Jordanian government — which controlled the occupied city at that time — represented by the Ministry of Construction and Development. The plan was to accommodate 28 displaced Palestinian families at the time.
The agreement provided for the payment of rent for a period of three years, after which the houses were handed to the residents. The leases expired in 1959, but after Israel's 1967 offensive and the occupation of what was left of Palestine, the colonial government prevented the Palestinian families from having ownership of the properties and land. Two Israeli committees attempted to falsify legal documents in 1972 and register the land to be officially at the disposal of the occupation government.
In 1982, settlers' associations used the forged documents to demand that the Israeli courts should evict the Palestinians from their homes. The courts' deliberations continued between partial eviction and general postponement of the decisions until last month when the central court in Jerusalem ruled to reject the appeals submitted by the residents of Sheikh Jarrah and granted them a grace period until May and August to leave their homes.
Following the issue of the eviction orders, Jordan confirmed that there are legal documents proving the Palestinian families' ownership of the houses in accordance with the 1956 agreement, adding that the Palestinian Authority (PA) has provided these documents to the owners. However, the Israeli courts are disregarding the legal evidence, and have deliberately overridden Palestinian rights in a clear attempt to strengthen Israeli settlements in and around occupied Jerusalem.
In response, hundreds of thousands of people around the world have taken to social media using the hashtag #SaveSheikhJarrah to demonstrate their rejection of the eviction notices in Sheikh Jarrah. Last month, an international delegation of diplomats visited the residents of the neighbourhood, who told them about the facts on the ground. The delegation expressed concern about the situation of the Palestinian families and demanded the immediate suspension of Israeli settlement activities, which violate UN Resolutions 242 and 448.
Despite the clearly legal Palestinian position — and the illegality of Israel's moves — as well as global sympathy for the residents of Sheikh Jarrah, Israel insists on implementing the eviction orders, which will displace dozens of Palestinian families. As May approaches, the legal and humanitarian responsibility entrusted to the international community and its institutions requires urgent action to end this illegal occupation policy and save hundreds of children and women from being rendered homeless.
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