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Israeli court suspends eviction of Shamasna family in East Jerusalem

Aug. 18, 2017 11:00 A.M. (Updated: Aug. 18, 2017 10:46 P.M.)
JERUSALEM (Ma'an) -- An Israeli magistrate court suspended the eviction of the Shamasna family in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood in occupied East Jerusalem on Thursday, after the family refused to leave their home of 53 years amid claims that it was the property of Israeli settlers.

During a court session to consider an appeal presented by the family’s lawyer Said Ghaliyeh, the court ruled to suspend the eviction order, after challenges were presented by Ghaliyeh on the lack of documentation of the plots of lands in the neighborhood on the municipal level. In order for the eviction order to be enforced, the courts must determine exactly which land was owned by Jews before 1948 based on land documentation records.

According to Israeli law, Jewish Israelis are permitted to claim ownership over property believed to have been owned by Jews before 1948 during Ottoman or British rule. However, such a law does not exist for the hundreds of thousands of Palestinian refugees who were displaced from their lands and homes during and after the establishment of the state of Israel.

Israelis have claimed that Sheikh Jarrah was once the site of a 19th century Jewish community. Many families in the neighborhood have been embroiled in legal disputes for decades, as various Israeli settlers have attempted to claim ownership over their homes.

In addition, the appeal is based on the health of 84-year-old Ayoub Shamasna, who has lived in the home since 1964, and suffers from several illnesses. According to the appeal, the eviction could adversely affect the health of Ayoub and his 75-year-old wife.

An official from the Fatah movement in Jerusalem Hatem Abd al-Qader said that the Israeli judge had transferred lawyers for the family and the settlers to the execution department of Israel’s Enforcement and Collection Authority to begin procedures of marking the land to determine how much of the home was built on so-called Jewish property.

However, the Israeli settlers have rejected the order, instead demanding that the court issue an immediate decision on the family’s appeal, Abd al-Qader said.

The judge had suspended the eviction and postponed working on the case “until further notice,” Abd al-Qader told Ma’an.

He said that he hoped the suspension of the eviction order would allow Ghaliyeh to collect more documents and information that could prevent or postpone the eviction for a longer period of time. Israeli authorities had previously given the family until Aug. 9 to voluntarily leave the house; however, the family refused.

Abd al-Qader pointed out that while the eviction order has been temporarily suspended, it was not for the benefit of the family. “Israeli courts have supported the settlers’ claims since the beginning of the case and rejected all documents presented by the family,” he added.

Spokesperson for United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) Chris Gunness said in a statement on Tuesday condemning the eviction threat. "It is a matter of deep concern that Palestine refugees who have already endured multiple displacements should be subject to the humiliation of the kind inflicted by forced evictions," Gunness said.

Before 1967, the Shamasna family had rented the property from the Jordanian government.

Some of the properties that had once been owned by Jews -- thousands of whom fled East Jerusalem during the 1948 Arab-Israeli war -- were repurposed by the Jordanian government, who took control over the territory following the war, to house some of the approximately 750,000 Palestinians who were forced from homes that were consumed by the new Israeli state.

The Shamasna family were displaced from the village of Qatanna, located in the West Bank close to Israeli territory, in 1948 as Israel tightened controls over its newly established borders.

When Israel took control over the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza after the Six-Day War in 1967, the Jordanian-controlled properties were transferred to Israel's general custodian.

In 2009, when a wave of Israeli settler ownership claims targeted the neighborhood, the building’s custodian refused to renew the Shamasnas' lease, stating that the heirs of the Jewish homeowner had filed a lawsuit.

If the eviction plans are carried out, it would be the first eviction in the neighborhood since 2009, when the Um Kamel al-Kurd, Ghawi, and Hanoun families were evicted from their homes by Israeli settlers under similar ownership claims.

The 2009 evictions sparked widespread protests in Sheikh Jarrah. At the same time, a group of Israeli settlers took over the front section of the al-Kurd family home claiming that their ancestors had once owned the plot of land; eight years later, the family has continued to live side-by-side with the Jewish extremists.

Israeli rights group Ir Amim has noted that Israeli settler plans have focused on taking control of the entire neighborhood and then demolishing it to establish a massive Jewish settlement, called Shimon HaTzadik -- named after the tomb of the biblical figure Simeon the Just, which is believed by Jews to be located in the neighborhood.
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