EU condemns Israeli settlement plans amid East Jerusalem tensions

Brussels warns of alarming rise in evictions and demolitions

Palestinian protesters react as Israeli police fire water canon containing a foul smelling substance amid ongoing tension ahead of an upcoming court hearing in an Israel-Palestinian land-ownership dispute in the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood of East Jerusalem May 5, 2021. REUTERS/Ammar Awad
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The EU on Wednesday condemned Israeli plans to build hundreds of new housing units in a settlement in East Jerusalem seen as illegal by international powers.

Brussels warned that the planned 540 units in the settlement of Har Homa would cut off East Jerusalem from Bethlehem and undermine the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

EU foreign affairs spokesman Peter Stano also warned of what he said was an alarming increase in evictions and demolitions in occupied Palestinian territory.

Clashes over evictions in Sheikh Jarrah led to two Palestinians being arrested and 10 injured in East Jerusalem this week.

“The EU renews its call on the Israeli government to halt settlement construction and to reverse these latest decisions as a matter of urgency,” a statement from Brussels said.

“The increase in evictions and demolitions across the occupied Palestinian territory, notably the evolving situation in Sheikh Jarrah and Silwan, in East Jerusalem, and the possible demolition of structures in the Palestinian village of al-Walajeh, are also alarming.

“Such unilateral actions are illegal under international humanitarian law and only fuel tensions on the ground.”

Sheikh Jarrah is in East Jerusalem, which Israel conquered in 1967 and annexed in a move not recognised by most of the international community.

Israelis took over houses in Sheikh Jarrah on the grounds that Jewish families lived there before fleeing in Israel's 1948 war for independence.

Jewish claimants are now seeking to evict 58 more Palestinians, according to the watchdog group Peace Now.

Brussels urged Israel to call a halt to evictions and instead provide “adequate permits for legal construction and development of Palestinian communities”.

“The EU reiterates its firm condemnation of violence and calls for calm and restraint from all actors at this sensitive time,” the statement said.

The plans to expand the Har Homa settlement were condemned by the UK when the proposals for 540 new housing units emerged last year.

Britain said the settlements were “illegal under international law and damaging to efforts to rebuild trust and dialogue between the parties”.

Jordan also intervened to say that it built the homes for Palestinian refugees when it administered the area from 1948 to 1967.

Opponents of the evictions gather regularly in the neighbourhood, which is near the Damascus Gate plaza in Jerusalem's Old City.
The latest protests follow days of clashes after Israeli police blocked the plaza.

Police quelled those protests with stun grenades, water cannons and skunk water before ultimately removing the barriers.

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