image Photo: Flash90

Sheikh Jarrah tensions spike

[Ed. Note 19 January 2022:  the court-approved eviction order of “illegal buildings built on grounds designated for a school for children with special needs” was enforced this morning, according to a police statement. 5 members of the Salhiyeh family were detained after refusing to vacate the property.]

A Palestinian facing eviction from the flashpoint Jerusalem neighborhood threatened to set fire to himself and his family and blow up the residence rather than leave.

By Erin Viner

The violence erupted when Mahmoud Salhiyeh barricaded himself on the rooftop of the dwelling “with a gas canister and other flammable material,” said Israeli Police, who were at the site to serve eviction orders dating back to 2017. According to the Sheikh Jarrah Committee organization, there are 15 members of the Salhiya family.

Scores of Israeli security officers in riot gear surrounded the Sheikh Jarrah property from early morning yesterday during an hours-long stand-off. Nearby streets were cordoned off in the vicinity, located about kilometer (one-half mile) north of Jerusalem’s Old City.

The neighborhood has become an emblem of what Palestinians regard as an Israeli campaign to force them out of east Jerusalem, and the site of frequent clashes with Israelis.

“I will burn the house and everything in it, I will not leave here, from here to the grave, because there is no life, no dignity,” Salhiyeh vowed, while photographed standing alongside gas canisters and holding a firebomb.

“Whoever leaves his house is a traitor,” he proclaimed, although the drama finally ended without violence when negotiators persuaded Salhiya to descend from the roof.

Palestinians seek the overturning of court rulings that disputed property in Sheikh Jarrah belongs to Jewish families, who were forced to leave when Jerusalem was divided after the Israel’s 1948 War of Independence. The eastern half of the city, which had been designated by the United Nations to be part of a new Arab state, was illegally conquered by Jordan; while Israel asserted sovereignty in the west.

Palestinian families displaced from elsewhere by the fighting then moved into 10 buildings on the land – as part of a deal to relinquish their refugee status offered by Jordan.

Litigious attempts by the Jewish owners to reclaim the land after Jerusalem was reunified after the 1967 Six Day War were ultimately successful when the Jerusalem District Court ruled in their favor. The Palestinian tenants, who were found to have never finalized a legally binding registration process, have however refused the vacate the premises.

In a joint statement, police and the Jerusalem municipality said the Salhiyas have ignored “countless opportunities” to vacate the land as ordered. The family is not among 7 others in Sheikh Jarrah who have appealed the eviction to Israel’s Supreme Court.

The Jerusalem municipality has announced plans to build a school at the site where Salhiyeh has been dwelling.

Underscoring that the matter is a court-ruled case of illegal squatting, Israeli Public Security Minister Omer Bar-Lev wrote on Twitter yesterday that, “You can’t hold the stick at both ends by both demanding that the municipality take action on welfare for Arab residents and oppose the building of educational establishments for their welfare.”

An 11-day Gaza war between Israel and the Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror groups known as Operation Guardian of the Walls erupted last year, fueled by rage and bloody clashes in Sheikh Jarrah.