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Israel orders eviction of Palestinian family from east Jerusalem property, reigniting a legal battle

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Israel orders eviction of Palestinian family from east Jerusalem property, reigniting a legal battle
April 15, 2024
JACK JEFFERY - AP

JERUSALEM (AP) — An Israeli court on Monday ordered the eviction of a Palestinian family in a contested neighborhood of east Jerusalem, the latest in a legal saga that has come to symbolize the conflicting claims to the holy city.

The Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood has been the focus of a long-running battle between government-backed Israeli settlers and longtime Palestinian residents. It's part of a broader trend of settlers encroaching on Palestinian neighborhoods in contested east Jerusalem, and previous attempts at evictions in Sheikh Jarrah have led to violent clashes and helped spark an 11-day war between Israel and Hamas in 2021.

According to Monday’s ruling, the Diab family was given until July to vacate the house in Sheikh Jarrah. The family said it would appeal.

The Israeli magistrate court described the case as a simple dispute over real estate, ruling that the extended Diab family was squatting in a property owned by Jews and had no legal rights to it. Palestinians say they have lived in the homes for decades.

The case against the family was launched by Nahalat Shimon Ltd, a Jewish settler organization that for years has been involved in legal efforts to evict Palestinian families from Sheikh Jarrah.

Israel captured east Jerusalem in the 1967 Mideast war and annexed the area in a move that is not internationally recognized. Israel considers the entire city its capital, while the Palestinians seek east Jerusalem, home to the city's most sensitive holy sites, as the capital of their future independent state.

Nahalat Shimon is trying to seize the property under an Israeli law allowing Jews to reclaim properties that were Jewish before Israel was established in 1948. Jordan controlled the area between 1948 and the 1967 war.

There is no equivalent right in Israel for hundreds of thousands of Palestinians who fled or were forced from their homes during the war surrounding Israel’s establishment.

Saleh Diab, one of the men in the family, said his family of 20 has been living in the Sheikh Jarrah property since 1955. He told The Associated Press he was shocked by decision and thought his family was protected under a 2022 Supreme Court decision that halted the planned evictions of four other Palestinian families in the same area.

Monday's decision comes at a time of heightened tensions in Jerusalem over Israel’s ongoing war against Hamas in Gaza.

A high-profile eviction case in Sheikh Jarrah helped spark the 11-day war in May 2021. Israel's firebrand National Security Minister, Itamar Ben-Gvir, played a key role in rallying demonstrations in support of the settlers as an opposition lawmaker at the time.

In his current position, Ben-Gvir oversees the nation's police force.

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Associated Press writer Natalie Melzer in Tel Aviv, Israel, contributed to this report.

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