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Israeli police detain former minister of Jerusalem affairs

July 26, 2009 1:58 P.M. (Updated: July 27, 2009 1:08 P.M.)
Jerusalem – Ma’an – Residents on Sunday tried unsuccessfully to prevent Israeli settlers and police from reaching a home owned by Palestinians in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of East Jerusalem.

During the incident former Minister of Jerusalem Affairs Hatim Abdul Qader was detained, apparently while trying to block more attacks on a home that had earlier been ransacked by a group of rightist settlers.

The former minister had not been released by early afternoon on Sunday. Abdul Qader resigned his post earlier this month, but remains in charge of Jerusalem affairs within the Fatah movement.

Another Palestinian and eight foreign solidarity activists were also detained by Israeli forces operating in the area when, according to Ma'an's correspondent, they tried to prevent settlers and police from occupying the home of Darwish Hijazi.

Three of the internationals were identified in a statement to Ma'an as two American nationals and one from the United Kingdom. There was no word on the other five internationals allegedly seized.

A number of local residents reportedly sat on the road leading to the home in an effort to stop Israeli bulldozers moving near the house, and Israeli policy attacks and injured several protesters, according to witnesses.

Dimitri Diliani, spokesman for Fatah in Jerusalem, and Abdul Qader were quoted as saying that residents were adamant about preventing settlers from occupying the Hijazi home.

Diliani added that dozens of Fatah activists had meanwhile managed to expel a group of settlers from a nearby piece of land, while Israeli police nonetheless brought backup forces and threatened to arrest protesters who refused to leave the area.

The arrests came just 48 hours after Abdul Qader warned on Friday that Israel risks provoking a new upheaval if it continues destroying Palestinian houses in East Jerusalem.

"After the incident of opening the tunnel in 1996 Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Natanyahu said that 'no one warned me of the consequences of opening the tunnel and if I received a warning then I would not have done it,'" he said, referencing riots that cost 70 Palestinians and 17 Israeli soldiers their lives after the opening of the Western Wall tunnels.

"We are warning [Netanyahu] now of the consequences of the demolitions, because the consequences will surpass those of opening the tunnel in Jerusalem," Abdul Qader said.

Abdul Qader made his remarks alongside hundreds of residents of the Bustan neighborhood in East Jerusalem’s Silwan area. Some 88 houses on the sliver of land near the Old City are slated for demolition because they were built without permits from the Israeli municipal authorities. But some of the structures were built before Israel occupied East Jerusalem in 1967.

The official alleged that Israeli authorities in Jerusalem are enabling settler groups to take control of Palestinian neighborhoods.
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