Settlers get first home in Jerusalem’s Beit Hanina

Israeli police on Wednesday evicted a Palestinian family from their home in annexed east Jerusalem after Jewish settlers won a court battle over ownership, police and rights groups said.

By (AFP)

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Published: Wed 18 Apr 2012, 8:55 PM

Last updated: Fri 3 Apr 2015, 1:52 PM

The eviction of the 14-member Natshe family from two houses in Beit Hanina was the first successful attempt by settlers to secure a property in the well-heeled Arab district in the northern part of east Jerusalem, rights groups said.

Police spokeswoman Luba Samri confirmed the eviction, telling AFP it was in line with a recent court ruling which found settlers had legally purchased the property.

“The court decided a while ago that the two houses belong to the Jews. One of those houses was voluntarily evacuated a few weeks ago while police units are now helping forces from the eviction department to evacuate the other house,” she said.

Speaking to AFP, Lubna al-Natshe said all of the family’s furniture had been removed and that police had arrested her husband.

“They came at 8:00 am (0500 GMT) to evict us and when my husband tried to resist, they beat him and they arrested him,” she said.

“They say the settlers bought this house 73 years ago.”

Arye King, head of the Israel Land Fund, a right-wing group dedicated to purchasing properties in Arab east Jerusalem, told AFP the land had been “bought by a Jewish buyer decades ago” and that his group was reclaiming it.

He said Palestinian claims to the land were “forged.”

Hagit Ofran, who works with Israeli settlement watchdog Peace Now, said both the Palestinians and the settlers were claiming ownership of the land, but that a court had ruled against the Palestinians.

“There were Jews living here before 1948 and some of them purchased parcels of land in the West Bank and east Jerusalem,” she said, adding the plots fell into Jordanian ownership after the war that accompanied Israel’s establishment.

“But the Palestinians also say they bought it from the owner at around the same time,” she said.

“It could be true that the land was purchased by a Jewish buyer but I believe it is against Israel’s interests to establish a new settlement in Beit Hanina, and it is against Israel’s interests to acknowledge Jewish property rights before 1948 when we don’t allow the Palestinians to do the same, because that would be permitting the right of return.”

But there was a political twist to the story, she said, indicating the individual who claims to have purchased the land during the 1930 was now being represented by the settlers.

“Settlers moving into Beit Hanina is a dangerous provocation. We hope the government will not give its green light to the creation of a new settlement in the middle of this Palestinian neighbourhood of east Jerusalem.”

Itay Epshtain, co-director of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions, said regardless of the legal dispute over ownership of the house, its possession by Israelis was illegal.

“No matter what the merits of the case, Beit Hanina is illegally annexed,” he told AFP.

“Israel has no authority to forcefully evict or demolish houses. Forcefully evicting people is a war crime.”

Israel captured east Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and the Syrian Golan Heights during the 1967 Six-Day War.

It considers all of Jerusalem its “eternal, undivided” capital and does not see construction in the eastern sector as settlement building.

But the Palestinians want east Jerusalem as the capital of their promised state, and furiously denounce any move by Israel to buy or build property there.

The international community considers all Israeli settlement on occupied land to be illegal under international law.

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