Palestinian Family Vows to Fight Back After Their East Jerusalem Home Was Demolished

© REUTERS / RONEN ZVULUNProtesters take part in a demonstration to show their support for Palestinian residents of Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood facing eviction during a court hearing, outside the Israeli Supreme Court, in Jerusalem August 2, 2021.
Protesters take part in a demonstration to show their support for Palestinian residents of Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood facing eviction during a court hearing, outside the Israeli Supreme Court, in Jerusalem August 2, 2021.  - Sputnik International, 1920, 01.02.2022
The Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood has been a disputed area for years. Dozens of Palestinian families were placed there in 1948 by the United Nations and the Jordanian authorities. But some Jewish organisations claim this land was theirs even before the establishment of the State of Israel.
Mahmoud Salhiya, a Palestinian resident of the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood in East Jerusalem, says he will never forget that cold night in mid-January, when the Israeli police raided his home to evict him and his family.

"It happened at dawn. There were about 70 Israeli officers. They stormed my house, arrested my family, and then they demolished the house".

The police also blocked all entrances and exits to the neighbourhood ahead of the house demolition. Electricity was cut off. The evacuation was carried out smoothly, with no objection from the Salhiya family and the activists who stayed with them in solidarity.

Disputed Land

Salhiya says the Israeli deeds were illegal, primarily due to them violating their rights as the owners of that land.

"This is part and parcel of Israel's policy towards Arabs and the Palestinians. They want to push us out from here, and what they also want is to grab our land and to build more settlements here", the man lamented.

But in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict every story has two narratives and this one is no exception.
According to the position of the Jerusalem municipality, Salhiya's house was supposed to be evacuated in 2017 and the land was meant to be transformed into an area with a school for kids with special needs. It was also supposed to house six kindergartens to serve the children of the neighbourhood.

Conflict Rooted in History

Yet, the conflict goes much deeper, dating back to the creation of the State of Israel in 1948.
Before the Jewish state was established, Jews who resided in Sheikh Jarrah held some of the neighbourhood's lands but shortly after the 1948 War of Independence, Jordan and the United Nations used that strip of land to erect houses for 28 Arab families, who fled from territories where Jews had created their own state.
FILE PHOTO: Family photos are seen on the remains of a refrigerator at the site of a demolished house in the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood of East Jerusalem January 19, 2022. - Sputnik International, 1920, 20.01.2022
Violent Israeli Demolition of Palestinian Home in Jerusalem’s Sheikh Jarrah Rebuked by US at UN
Those families have been living on that land ever since, but after the Six-Day War in 1967, when Israel captured Jerusalem and established control over the city, Israeli law allowed the state to claim those territories. Over the years, it has managed to do so on a number of occasions, evacuating numerous families. And this struggle continues today.

Fight to Go On

Part of the battle is held in courts. The Salhiyas attended multiple hearings in the hopes of preventing the Jerusalem municipality from taking away their property. They even appealed to the High Court of Justice but that yielded zero results, primarily because the family lacks enough documents to prove their ownership of the land.

"We have tried it all. Israeli courts are biased, they follow the policy of their authorities and they will do nothing to help us".

This is why, says Salhiya, he as well as many other families, decided to take matters into their own hands. Over the past several months they have been staging multiple protests. Activists have been clashing with the Israeli police or attacking representatives of the Jerusalem municipality.
Last May, those confrontations even provided Hamas, the Islamic group that controls the Gaza Strip and that is deemed a terrorist organisation by Israel, an excuse to launch a barrage of rockets on Israeli towns and cities.

"My family and I will continue to fight. We will not leave our land after the houses were destroyed. We will keep on standing firm against the illegal decision by Israel that infringed upon our rights".

Yet, the struggle, says Salhiya, will not be limited to physical confrontations. To fight Israel, he intends to use social media too and plans to put pressure on the international community to interfere for the sake of the Palestinians.

"Politicians around the world are supportive of Israel but ordinary people are not and we will make sure that they apply enough pressure on their governments to prevent Israel from continuing with its violations against us".

The next battle in Sheikh Jarrah will revolve around the land of the Salem family. Just as was the case with the Salhiyas, several Jews are claiming ownership over their house too, and they want them to evacuate it.
For now, both sides have been asked to produce documents proving their right over that strip of land but the fear is that another evacuation is already around the corner, and it is expected to take place later this month.
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