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Israeli settlers take over storage unit in contested East Jerusalem home

Jan. 26, 2017 2:50 P.M. (Updated: Jan. 26, 2017 8:58 P.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- Israeli settlers took over a storage unit formerly belonging to the Sub Laban family on the ground floor of their apartment building in the Old City of occupied East Jerusalem on Tuesday.

Ahmad Sub Laban told Ma’an that an Israeli family living below them drilled through the wall into the Sub Laban storage space, seemingly with the intention of expanding their apartment unit.

The settlers were given ownership of the storage unit following a controversial Israeli Supreme Court ruling in December which concluded a decades-long legal battle between the family and Israeli settlers.

The ruling allowed Sub Laban's parents, Noura and Mustafa Sub Laban, to reside in the apartment for 10 more years, but ordered the eviction of Ahmad, his wife, two children, and siblings.

Sub Laban told Ma’an that while the settlers were given the storage unit by the Israeli Supreme Court, they had not undergone the proper legal channels to take over the property, and instead drilled through the wall and changed the locks of the unit from the inside, preventing the family from entering the space.

The Israeli police were called to the scene, but did not force the settlers out of the unit and told the family that the space no longer belonged to them. According to Sub Laban, the settlers were prevented by the police from continuing with the wall demolition, as they had not obtained proper construction permits.

The Sub Laban family are the last Palestinian family left in their apartment building in the Aqbat al-Khaldiya area of the Old City, where at least eight other Palestinian families are facing eviction spearheaded by Israeli settler organizations.

The family has been targeted by settlers since the 1970s, shortly after the passage of Israel’s 1970 Legal and Administrative Matter Law, which states that Jews are permitted to claim property that was owned by Jewish people before the establishment of Israel in 1948.

The apartment was initially rented by the family from Jordan’s Custodian of Enemy Property, which controlled property belonging to Jews before the 1948 Arab-Israeli war. According to Palestinian rights group BADIL, the former Jewish properties were used by the Jordanian government in various ways, including for Palestinians who were displaced from their homes during the 1948 war and the establishment of the state of Israel.

However, settlers have failed to evict the Sub Labans due to the family’s protected tenancy, referring to rental agreements many Palestinians held with the Jordanian government which protected them from eviction.

Israeli authorities allowed Palestinian families to keep the status for three generations, however Israeli courts have ruled that Sub Laban and his siblings no longer hold the protected status, and therefore must leave their home, a ruling which the Sub Labans have contested.

According to UN documentation, 818 Palestinians are under threat of eviction in East Jerusalem, including 372 children.
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