11/04/2009, 00.00
ISRAEL – PALESTINE
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East Jerusalem: Jewish settlers seize Palestinian homes by force

Israeli courts are increasingly ruling against Palestinian families, ordering them to leave their homes. The Israeli government is also doing its part in evicting Palestinians by demolishing their allegedly “unauthorised” homes. Since 1967, some 2,000 houses have been demolished; another 15,000 are on the ‘to be demolished’ list.
Jerusalem (AsiaNews/Agencies) – A group of 40 Jewish settlers have taken over by force another Palestinian house in East Jerusalem’s neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah. The settlers stormed the building with the assistance of security guards. The 29 members of the al-Kurd family who lived in the house found themselves in the street, their belongings thrown out of the windows.

Police moved in to stop settlers clashing with Palestinians and their Israeli supporters, but eyewitnesses reported that they arrived late, allowing the settlers to continue their attack.

Palestinian and Israeli human rights activists from the Grassroots Jerusalem organisation have called for a vigil tonight in Sheikh Jarrah to protest the attack and the growing number of forced expropriations in Arab Jerusalem. The al-Kurd family case is in fact but the latest in a series that have occurred in the past few months.

On 30 October, the Salah family of Beit Safafa suffered a similar fate. About ten settlers forced their way into their house, claiming that had bought it from an alleged Armenian owner.

According to the Palestinian News Network, the Salahs have papers showing they owned the house since 1966, but a sentence by Israel’s High Court ordered the family to leave the premises.

As a result of the scuffle that followed, all five members of the Palestinian family ended up in hospital, including Sheha and Ali Ibrahim, respectively 89 and 100 years old.

In addition to home evictions, Palestinians are also confronted with demolitions by Israeli authorities.

The latest ones took place on 27 October in Shuafat, Zur Baher, Silwan and Jabel Mukabar where bulldozers flattened five houses allegedly built without a permit.

Since 1967, about 2,000 Palestinian homes have been demolished in Jerusalem, 400 in 2008 alone. About 15,000 “unauthorised” houses are waiting to be demolished.

Since the Six Day War, Israel has placed 190,000 settlers in the Holy City in violation of international law, which bans Israeli settlements on the Occupied Territories.

Rabbi Yehiel Grenimann, of Rabbis for Human Rights, said that the al-Kurd case is “just another step-by-step way of pushing them (the Palestinians) out”

Unlawful Israeli settlements on Palestinian territory, in East Jerusalem and the West Bank, are the main obstacle to renewed peace talks.

The Palestinian National Authority has called for a freeze on settlement activities, or at least a 9-12 month moratorium to granting building permits in the West Bank.

However, the Israeli government has rejected any halt to construction, and is actually planning more. About 2,500 building sites already in operation will continue their scheduled work. Israel’s government approved another 455 units in September.

US Secretary Hillary Clinton’s recent visit to Jerusalem has further complicated matters (See Joshua Lapide, “Hillary Clinton's visit to Israel triggers the Third Intifada,” in AsiaNews, 2 November 2009)

Last Friday, after her with Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu, Ms Clinton said that the peace process could start again even if Israel did not freeze its settlement activities in the Occupied Territories.

This represents a complete turnaround for the United States with regard to the position taken by the US President Barack Obama and his Mideast envoy George Mitchell.

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