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UN chief to Israel: End 'provocative actions' in East Jerusalem !

By Nir Hasson, Haaretz Correspondent, and Haaretz Service


United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Tuesday urged Israel to halt what he called "provocative" actions in East Jerusalem after another Palestinian family was evicted from its home.

"These actions stoke tensions, cause suffering and further undermine trust," said Ban in a statement issued by his spokesperson.

Ban called on Israel to "cease such provocative actions," and to implement its commitments under the Road Map peace plan by freezing all settlement activity, including natural growth; dismantling outposts; and reopening Palestinian institutions in East Jerusalem.


Rioting settlers on Tuesday forced a Palestinian family from the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah out of its home, after the district court denied the residents' appeal to remain on the premises.

Shortly after the verdict was passed dozens of settlers stormed into the house with hired security guards, and demanded that the family vacate immediately.

A violent riot erupted between the settlers and the neighborhood's Palestinian residents, and police were called to disperse the protesters.

A legal battle has raged for some 30 years over the ownership of 28 houses in this neighborhood.

This particular house, built 10 years ago by the al-Kurd family, was unoccupied and locked for eight years by court order pending settlement of a land-ownership dispute.

Police kept members of the family back as a dozen Israeli men removed furniture.

"They can go to Syria, Iraq, Jordan. We are six million and they are billions," said Yehya Gureish, an Arabic-speaking Yemen-born Jew who said his family owned the land and had Ottoman Empire documentation to prove it.

"This land is Israel. We are in Israel. God gave this land to the Jews. The Torah tells us so. You want war? Declare war on God, not on us," he said.

The home takeover was filmed by an activist from the pro-Palestinian International Solidarity Movement, whose video includes some cursing and a brief scuffle, but no violence.

"I am Jerusalemite, a Palestinian. I didn't come from all over the world," said Rifqa al-Kurd, who had the house built 10 years ago for her married daughter.

The Palestinians who currently reside in the area were housed there as refugees by the United Nations after they fled western Jerusalem following the War of Independence in 1948.

During the 1970s, a committee of Sephardic Jews claimed ownership of the land, according to papers which proved that they had purchased it from the Turks before the war.

The committee had been active amongst the Jerusalem Jewish community for several hundred years in ownership claims over land in the area.

The court decided after long deliberation, that the Sephardic committee's claim to ownership is legal, but the Palestinian residents had also received a protected residency status which forced the Jews to keep them on as tenants.

Since then the committee filed several claims stating that the Palestinians had breached the lease with their new landlords, and demanded that they be evacuated from the premises.

Due to these recurring claims, several Palestinian families were evacuated from their homes and replaced by settler families.

The Sheikh Jarrah Palestinian residents said they fear that the settlers are strengthening the pressure to move them all out of town.

Two Palestinian families that were forced to leave their homes last August have been living out of protest in a tent on the town's sidewalks despite municipal pressure to remove the tents.

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    A scuffle broke out and one woman was arrested on Tuesday morning after a group of Jews entered a home in east Jerusalem's Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood armed with a court order that named them as the property's owners.

    While no one was evicted - the section of the property determined to be owned by Jews had been vacant for some time - the arrival of the Jews, whom police described as right-wing activists, was seen as a continuation of a series of evictions in the neighborhood that have sparked international condemnation and a number of local protests.

    A Palestinian family who had been living in a separate section of the building remained there on Tuesday, and planned on remaining.

    According to police, a group of local residents and left-wing activists arrived at the scene soon after the Jews did, and began protesting their entry into the structure.

    At one point, a police spokesman said, the protesters also attempted to enter the home, but were stopped by police and border policemen.

    "Our forces were called in to prevent any security-related problems from occurring," the spokesman said. "While one female attacked a police officer and was arrested, the overall situation was calm and ended quickly."

    The spokesman added that while the Jews may plan to live in the home at a later date, they came on Tuesday to begin renovations before leaving again.

    "They were gone about an hour and a half after they arrived," the spokesman said. "But a number of private security guards did remain at the site to watch over the property."

    The home, which is in the Shimon Hatzadik section of the neighborhood, is one of 28 properties in Sheikh Jarrah that are the subject of an ongoing legal battle between Jewish claimants and the Palestinian families who live there.

    A number of homes in the neighborhood that belonged to Jews before 1948, were seized by the Jordanian government under its Enemy Property Law when Jordan occupied the area from 1948 to 1967.

    In 1956, 28 Palestinian families who had been receiving refugee assistance from UNRWA were selected to benefit from a project in which they forfeited their refugee aid and moved into homes built on "formerly Jewish property leased by the Custodian of Enemy Property to the Ministry of Development."

    The agreement stipulated that the ownership of the homes was to be put in the families' names - a step that never took place - and court battles between Jewish groups that represent some of the former Jewish homeowners and the current Palestinian residents have been going on, in some cases, since the 1980s.

    Two groups, Nahalat Shimon International and the Sefardic Community Association, are spearheading court proceedings for the Jewish claimants, yet little is known about either group and representatives of neither have made themselves available to the press.

    While members of the Kurd family were the first to be evicted from their Sheikh Jarrah home in November 2008, two additional families, the Gawis and the Hanouns, were evicted at the beginning of August.

    Those evictions brought a slew of international condemnations, including from US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who labeled them "provocative" and called on Israel to refrain from taking steps that were not in line with its obligations under the road map peace plan.

    Meanwhile, court rulings on the rest of the homes are expected to be handed down, as lawyers for both sides try to prove their clients' ownership.

    The Sabbagh family, who are the next facing possible eviction, have appealed a number of rulings on the property they live in, that have shown the Jewish claimants to be legal owners the property.

    A lawyer for the Jewish claimants recently asked that the judge in the case not schedule another hearing regarding ownership, saying that it had already been proven. The court's ruling on that request is expected in the coming weeks.

    Meanwhile on Tuesday evening, members of both the Hanoun and Gawi families were to address the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee in Washington regarding their experiences in east Jerusalem over recent months.

    The head of the Settlements Monitoring Department at the Applied Research Institute-Jerusalem, Suhail Khalilieh, was expected to speak as well.

    According to an announcement released by the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, all three have also been "lobbying members of Congress, and will be traveling on to New York to lobby members of the United Nations for their property rights and homes in Jerusalem."