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Two Palestinian families evicted from East J'lem homes

Aug. 2, 2009 10:10 A.M. (Updated: Aug. 5, 2009 10:47 A.M.)
Jerusalem – Ma'an – Israeli police and border guard forces stormed the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of East Jerusalem and evicted two Palestinian families from their homes on Sunday morning.

Ma'an's correspondent was on the scene, and reported that the Israeli forces first demolished gates on the two houses and then forced the families out at gunpoint, without letting them remove furniture or belongings.

Israeli forces also destroyed a protest tent near the Al-Ghawi and Hanoun family homes, while 20 foreign solidarity activists were detained and journalists were prevented by police from entering the area.

The Israeli daily Haaretz reported clashes during the eviction. The Hebrew-language Yedioth Ahronoth wrote, "The execution office evacuated two Arab families who had invaded houses owned by Jews."

In an interview with Ma'an, Fatah's Jerusalem affairs liaison Hatem Abdul Qader said, "What just happened in Sheikh Jarrah this morning is a message to Fatah's sixth conference: Jerusalem will be the first and main issue on the agenda."

A spokesman from the British Consulate in Jerusalem released a statement condemning the action, as well as Saeb Erekat, the Palestine Liberation Organization's chief negotiator.

“Israel, the occupying power, once again has shown its commitment to the settler organizations by evicting more than 50 Palestinians, many of them children, from the houses where they have lived for more than 50 years,” Erekat said.

“Tonight, while these new settlers from abroad will be accommodating themselves and their belongings in these Palestinian houses, 19 newly homeless children will have nowhere to sleep,” he added.

“Israel is once again showing its utter failure to respect international law, the Road Map and the most basic moral and humanitarian principles,” Erekat noted. “While Israeli authorities have promised the American administration that home demolitions, home evictions and others provocations against Palestinian Jerusalemites would be stopped, what we’ve seen on the ground is completely the opposite.”

UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Robert Serry also condemned Israel’s eviction of the two families as a grave violation of international law.

“I deplore today's totally unacceptable actions by Israel,” the official, Richard Serry, said in a statement to Ma’an.

Serry alleged that Israel removed the Palestinians, refugees registered with the UN, from their homes to make way for settlers wanting to take control of their property. “These actions are contrary to the provisions of the Geneva Conventions related to occupied territory.”

“They also contravene the united calls of the international community, including the Quartet, which in its recent statement urged the Government of Israel to refrain from provocative actions in East Jerusalem, including house demolitions and evictions,” he noted.

Israel’s High Court had issued a ruling earlier last week that the two homes belonged to Jewish citizens, and has in the past ruled that Palestinian East Jerusalem is part of Israel.

Serry disagreed, noting that “[t]he United Nations rejects Israel's claims that this is a matter for municipal authorities and domestic courts.”

“These actions heighten tensions and undermine international efforts to create conditions for fruitful negotiations to achieve peace,” he said, calling on Israel to adhere to international law and its Road Map obligations.

He said Israel must “cease and reverse such provocative and unacceptable actions in East Jerusalem.”

East Jerusalem is the capital of Palestine. In 1967 Israel seized the city, along with the West Bank and Gaza Strip, calling the action a "reunification of Jerusalem" from religious tradition and declaring the city its "undivided, eternal capital."

Israel's claims on Jerusalem have never been accepted by the international community, and countries that maintain diplomatic ties with Israel generally open their embassies in Tel Aviv.
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