JERUSALEM: Israeli police destroyed the home of a Palestinian family in the sensitive East Jerusalem neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah early Wednesday morning, an AFP photographer said.
Before dawn, Israeli officers went to the home of the Salhiya family, threatened with eviction since 2017 and the centre of an anti-expulsion campaign in the Palestinian Territories and abroad, according to a video posted online by the police. Shortly afterwards an AFP photographer witnessed the demolition of the house.
“Israel police completed the execution of an eviction order of illegal buildings built on grounds designated for a school for children with special needs from east Jerusalem,” a police statement said.
Officers stressed that “members of the family living in the illegal buildings were given countless opportunities to hand over the land with consent”.
A police spokesman told AFP 18 family members and supporters were arrested during the operation for “violating a court order, violent fortification and disturbing public order,” but no clashes took place during the incident.
The Salhiya family has been facing the threat of eviction from their home in the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood of Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem since 2017, when the land where their home sits was allocated for school construction.
The looming eviction of other families from Shiekh Jarrah in May fuelled an 11-day war between Israel and armed Palestinian factions in Gaza.
When police arrived to carry out the eviction order on Monday, Salhiya family members went up to the building’s roof with gas canisters, threatening to set the contents and themselves alight if they were forced out of their home.
Police had eventually backed off.
Deputy Jerusalem mayor Fleur Hassan-Nahoum said Tuesday the plot that the Salhiya family claim as theirs belonged to private Palestinian owners who then sold it to the city, which allocated it for classrooms for special-needs Palestinian children.
Israel captured east Jerusalem in the 1967 Six-Day War and later annexed it, in a move not recognised by the international community.
More than 200,000 Jewish settlers have since moved into the area, fuelling tensions with Palestinians, who claim east Jerusalem as the capital of their future state.