Palestinian family evicted from Jerusalem home after losing decade-long battle with settler groups

Palestinian family evicted from Jerusalem home after losing decade-long battle with settler groups
An Israeli court ordered the evacuation of the Sumreen family from their home in East Jerusalem.
3 min read
25 September, 2019
An Israeli policeman walks outside the former Palestinian house in Silwan, east Jerusalem [AFP/Getty]
The Palestinian Sumreen family are set to be evicted from their home in the Silwan neighbourhood of East Jerusalem after an Israeli court ruled in favour of the Jewish National Fund (JNF).

The 18-member family lost the 30-year legal battle against the JNF, Haaretz reported on Wednesday, who along with far-right settler group Elad, have been vying for the house for decades.

Jerusalem Magistrate Court Judge Miriam Kaslassy ordered the eviction of the Sumreen family on the basis of the absentee property law, whereby Palestianias who fled or were expelled from the area in 1947 are defined as "absentees" and lose their claim to their property and land. 

JNF argued that one of the family's ancestors was an "absentee" and that his property was sold to the group by the state. The sale failed, according to Haaretz, when it became clear that the family member in question had indeed lived and died in Jerusalem.

But Judge Kaslassy accepted the sale of the home to the JNF after the organisation proved two of the main heirs were absentees.

In July, Silwan was the site of another eviction of a Palestinian family who had faced similar hardships. 

The Siyam family was evicted from their home in East Jerusalem on 10 July after Israeli settlers won a court battle that stretched back more than two decades.

An Israeli court found that the Elad foundation, which seeks to increase the Jewish presence in mainly Palestinian East Jerusalem, had legally purchased that portion of the property and ruled in its favour.

The apartment was home to a 53-year-old woman and her four children.

"To take us from the house is like taking my heart from my body," one of the Palestinian residents, Ali Siyam, 20, told AFP.

NGO Elad said in a statement "the property was purchased by Jewish people in accordance with the law, in good faith and in a fair and legal transaction".

It added that "three separate courts verified that the property was lawfully purchased by Jews".

The foundation, known in English as the City of David foundation, also oversees a nearby archaeological centre in Silwan that seeks to demonstrate the Jewish historical connection to Jerusalem.

US officials attended an inauguration of an archaeological project it organised in Silwan, another break with traditional diplomatic practice by President Donald Trump's White House that drew Palestinian outrage.

Their attendance was seen as further US recognition of Israeli sovereignty over east Jerusalem.

Palestinians say Israel and groups such as Elad are on a systematic campaign to force them out of Jerusalem.

Israel occupied East Jerusalem in the 1967 Six-Day War and later annexed it in a move never recognised by the international community.

It sees the entire city as its capital, while the Palestinians view the eastern sector as the capital of their future state.

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East Jerusalem includes highly sensitive holy sites for Christians, Muslims and Jews that are located in the Old City near Silwan.

Some 600,000 Israeli settlers now live in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem among around 2.9 million Palestinians.

Peace Now said in a statement "the settlement in Silwan not only harms the prospects for a conflict-ending agreement and stability in Jerusalem, it is also cruel and evil."

It accused the settlers of "using their power and money to exhaust and impoverish the Palestinian families in legal proceedings so that they will have to agree to sell them homes."

Agencies contributed to this report.

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