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East Jerusalem family fights Israeli ruling to evict them from their home of 53 years

Aug. 8, 2017 8:48 P.M. (Updated: Aug. 9, 2017 1:07 P.M.)
Fahima Shamasna and her son Muhammad.
JERUSALEM (Ma'an) -- A Jerusalemite Palestinian family is facing eviction on Wednesday from the home where they have lived for more than 50 years, after Israeli courts ruled that the house was Jewish property.

Ayoub Shamasna told Ma’an on Monday that his family had exhausted all legal avenues after Israeli courts ruled that the family had to be evacuated from the home, where 84-year-old Shamasna has lived since 1964, in the occupied East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah.

The magistrate court in Jerusalem, the district court, and the Israeli Supreme Court have all ruled in favor of claims that the house is Jewish property and that the owners could evict the Shamasnas.

While the court decision was made final in 2016, the Israeli municipality of Jerusalem notified the Shamasna family on July 1 that the Palestinians had until Aug. 9 to evacuate the house.

Shamasna's son Muhammad, who lives in the house with his parents and children, told Ma'an that his family used to pay rent to the Jordanian government before 1967, when East Jerusalem was under Jordan’s custodianship.

After Israel occupied East Jerusalem following the Six-Day War, the building fell under Israeli administration, as the Israeli custodian made all residents sign shorter, renewable one-year leases.

In 2009, however, the building’s custodian refused to renew the Shamasnas' lease, stating that heirs of the Jewish homeowner had filed a lawsuit.

Muhammad Shamasna said that the municipality's executive department had notified the family that if they didn't evacuate the house willingly, they would be forcibly removed from the premises and charged for the costs of the eviction -- including the work hours of the police officers and municipality employees involved.

"Though the house isn't more precious than martyrs, prisoners, and the injured, we won't leave it willingly and we will remain firm until the last moment," Shamasna’s wife, Fahima Shamasna, said.

"In this house, I gave birth to my eight children and raised them,” she added. “This house means a lot to us."

Fahima Shamasna.

"The occupation does not want to leave us alone or give us an opportunity to settle down," Fahima Shawasna noted.

“We were born and raised in this house, and we don't count of the Israeli judicial system, which sided with the settlers from the beginning,” Muhammad Shamasna said.

“It's not about our house alone, but rather all houses in Sheikh Jarrah are being targeted for different settler projects,” he added. “(Israel) wants to displace us and uproot us from the neighborhood and from the neighbors with whom we have lived for long years."

Shamasna said he feared he would once again be made a refugee, after him and his family were forcibly displaced from the Jerusalem-area village of Qatanna when he was a teenager in 1948.

A local committee in Sheikh Jarrah has organized a sit-in in front of the home in protest of the eviction order.

"The measures taken by Israeli occupation authorities are void, because Jerusalem is an occupied city, and the Israeli occupation has been trying to Judaize the city through deceptive court cases against citizens," former Grand Mufti of Jerusalem Sheikh Ekrima Sabri, who attended the sit-in on Monday along with Palestinian political faction representatives, said.

According to Israel’s 1970 Legal and Administrative Matters law, Jewish individuals are allowed to claim ownership of property in East Jerusalem if they can prove the property was under Jewish ownership before 1948.

The law only applies to Jews and not to Palestinians who were dispossessed of their lands and properties during and after the establishment of Israel in 1948, despite their right being upheld in international law in UN General Assembly Resolution 194.

The fate of Jerusalem has been a focal point of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict for decades, with numerous tensions arising over Israeli threats regarding the status of non-Jewish religious sites in the city, and the "Judaization" of East Jerusalem through settlement construction, mass demolitions of Palestinian homes, and stringent laws making it difficult for Palestinians to maintain their East Jerusalem residency.
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