Israeli police broke up early on Wednesday, May 26, a demonstration against the forced eviction of Palestinian families from the Batn al-Hawa neighborhood of Silwan in occupied East Jerusalem, arresting two. As the scuffle took place, the Jerusalem District Court heard an appeal in the plaintiffs’ case surrounding the upcoming ejection from their homes. At the conclusion of the session, the court chose to postpone announcing its final ruling on the appeal.
Zo Haderech reported that police reinforced their deployment near the courthouse in occupied East Jerusalem and set up metal barriers to prevent Palestinian and Israeli peace activists from reaching the site during the hearing to review an appeal submitted by the families against their pending forced expulsions. A similar rally was held on Tuesday evening in a sit-in tent in the neighborhood amidst beefed-up police presence, during which dozens of Palestinians chanted slogans against the evictions.
Seven Palestinian families from the neighborhood were ordered to leave their homes in 2020. Two of them, the Najah and the Kayed al-Rajabi families, submitted their appeal to the Jerusalem court early on Wednesday. Head of the Committee for the Defense of Batn al-Hawa, Zuheir al-Rajabi, said that 86 families totaling some1,750 residents living in 15 apartment buildings, face the imminent risk of forced dispossession. The Silwan expulsions are similar to the pending ones against Palestinian families in Sheikh Jarrah, the flashpoint which has in the past weeks witnessed daily sit-ins violently put down by Israeli occupation forces, who have closed the street where the Palestinians facing expulsion live.
Silwan, home to about 33,000 Palestinians, is located outside the walls of the Old City and barely 5km (2.4 miles) from Sheikh Jarrah. Since the 1980s, Israel has been moving Israelis to Silwan. Currently several hundred Jewish settlers live there in heavily fortified compounds, in place of scores of Palestinian families who were judicially removed.
According to Amnesty International, settlers has been seeking – with the support of Israeli authorities – to expel Palestinian families from the Batn al-Hawa, claiming the land is rightfully owned by a Jewish trust that was active in the area starting in the late 19th century. While Israeli law allows property to be transferred to Jews, it denies the same right to Palestinians who were dispossessed of their property following the establishment of the state in 1948.
Amnesty International’s deputy director for the Middle East and North Africa, Saleh Higazi said the situation is another example of Israel’s “criminal policy of forced displacement of Palestinians.” “For years Israel has sought to expand illegal settlements in the area of Silwan, forcibly displacing more than 200 Palestinians from their homes,” Hijazi said. “By continuing to pursue this court case – after the outcry over the planned expulsions in Sheikh Jarrah in occupied East Jerusalem – Israel is fanning the flames of the latest surge in violence and perpetuating the same systematic human rights violations against Palestinians that are at the root of the latest violence.”