Mon, Aug 03, 2009 - Page 6 News List

Israeli police evict Palestinian families in East Jerusalem

AFP , JERUSALEM

Israeli police kicked out two Palestinian families from their homes in an upmarket Arab district of occupied east Jerusalem yesterday after a court rejected an appeal against their eviction.

Large numbers of police moved in at dawn into the homes in Sheikh Jarrah, one of the most sensitive neighborhoods closest to the so-called Green Line which separates east and west Jerusalem.

The Palestinians are being expelled to allow Israeli families to set up home in the neighborhood, despite increasing international calls for Israel to halt all settlement activity on occupied Palestinian land.

The evictions come after Jerusalem city authorities gave permission for the building of about 20 housing units on the site in Sheikh Jarrah, triggering an international outcry.

The British consulate, which is located in Sheikh Jarrah along with other foreign missions, said it was “appalled” by the Israeli action.

“The Israelis’ claim that the imposition of extremist Jewish settlers into this ancient Arab neighborhood is a matter for the courts or the municipality is unacceptable,” it said in a statement. “These actions are incompatible with the Israeli professed desire for peace. We urge Israel not to allow the extremists to set the agenda.”

Israel’s refusal to heed Washington’s demands to stop all settlement activity in east Jerusalem and the West Bank has seen tensions between the two staunch allies rise to a level not seen in years.

The Sheikh Jarrah housing project is on a site known to Palestinians as Karm al-Mufti, which had once belonged to the grand mufti of Jerusalem Amin al-Husseini, and in 1985 was bought by US millionaire Irving Moskowitz.

Moskowitz has previously financed settlement projects in the occupied West Bank, including east Jerusalem.

Israel’s ambassador in Washington, Michael Oren, was summoned to the State Department last month to be told the project should be halted.

Israel captured east Jerusalem in the 1967 Six Day War and later annexed it in a move not recognized by the international community.

It sees all of Jerusalem as its “eternal, undivided” capital and does not consider construction in east Jerusalem to be settlement activity.

The Palestinians want to make the east of the city — home to some 200,000 Jewish Israelis and 268,000 Palestinians — the capital of their future state.

The issue of settlements is one of the thorniest dividing Israel and the Palestinians, who have refused to revive stalled peace talks unless settlement building is halted.

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