Palestinians in standoff with Israeli forces over Sheikh Jarrah eviction

Neighbourhood in occupied East Jerusalem drew international attention last year with protests against eviction of Palestinian residents

Palestinian resident Mahmoud Salhiyeh hold a gas canister on the rooftop of his home in East Jerusalem's Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood on January 17. AFP
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Palestinians were engaged in a tense standoff on Monday with Israeli security forces, who were attempting to evict a family in Jerusalem’s Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood.

Residents had barricaded themselves and a number of gas canisters on the roof when Israeli forces arrived to remove them from the property.

Speaking from the rooftop, Mahmoud Salhiyeh said he would set himself and his home alight rather than see his family forced out.

“I will burn the house and everything in it. I will not leave here,” said Mr Salhiyeh, clutching a jerrycan he said contained petrol.

Dozens of heavily armed police officers surrounded the building, while a fire engine and an ambulance were parked nearby.

The Salhiyeh family lost a lengthy legal battle to keep their home after the Jerusalem municipality decided to expropriate the land to build a school.

Numerous other Palestinians in Sheikh Jarrah are under the threat of eviction due to laws enacted after Israel seized East Jerusalem in the 1967 Arab-Israeli war.

Sven Kuhn von Burgsdorff, who heads the EU’s delegation in Jerusalem, visited the site along with other diplomats.

“This is occupied territory. Any eviction, any demolition taking place in occupied territories is illegal under international law,” he told The National.

As the day wore on, Israeli authorities started demolishing a plant nursery on the plot of land.

Another Sheikh Jarrah resident led a group of protesters in chants of “Freedom!” and “No occupation!”

The Jerusalem municipality did not immediately comment on reports that the eviction order had been temporarily halted.

Israeli authorities reportedly told the family they could stay in the house for a few more months while construction work began in the surrounding area.

“The family really wants to know that it's not a trick, that it's not for one day and then they will be evicted,” said Hagit Ofran, from Israeli NGO Peace Now.

“They were afraid that it was only a way to get them off the roof,” she added.

Sheikh Jarrah drew international attention last year with protests against the eviction of Palestinian residents.

In those cases, plaintiffs supporting Israeli settlers claim to hold land deeds dating to before the homes were built. Israel’s Supreme Court has yet to issue a final ruling.

Agencies contributed to this report

Updated: January 17, 2022, 4:51 PM