Settlers, soldiers seize Jerusalem home from Palestinian family

Israeli forces expelled a Palestinian family from their home in the Muslim Quarter of occupied East Jerusalem’s Old City on Sunday and handed it to Jewish settlers.

The Abu Asab family received eviction orders earlier this month demanding they vacate the building by 12 February.

Hatem Abu Asab was able to postpone his family’s expulsion until 28 February through his lawyers, but Israeli police paid no heed.

On Sunday, with no prior warning, Israeli forces surrounded the house and blocked the road leading to it, eyewitnesses told Wattan TV.

They then stormed the house to forcibly evacuate it and prevented family members from collecting their belongings.

“They destroyed me. They destroyed my life. They took everything I own here. My entire life is here,” Rania Abu Asab said in a video after she was kicked out of her house.

“They did not give us time to organize our things. They came in barbarically, attacked my husband, attacked my children and beat my aunt,” she added.

This video shows Israeli forces arresting Hatem Abu Asab:

Hatem Abu Asab’s son was also arrested. Local media circulated pictures of the arrest as well as Israeli settlers taking over the Abu Asab house:
Settlers raised the Israeli flag on the roof of the house after seizing it:

Nakba survivors

The Abu Asab family lived in the house for the past 67 years.

They were forcibly displaced from their home in the Baqa neighborhood in western Jerusalem after the notorious massacre by Zionist forces in the village of Deir Yassin on 9 April 1948 and moved near the Damascus Gate in Jerusalem’s Old City.

The expulsion of tens of thousands of Palestinians from western Jerusalem and the takeover of their homes was part of the 1948 Nakba – the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians carried out by Zionist forces to establish the state of Israel in their place.

The family then moved to their home in eastern Jerusalem in 1952, which was then under Jordanian control, and shared it with the Tuffaha family, until the latter moved elsewhere.

Israel then conquered eastern Jerusalem in 1967, when it occupied the West Bank, Gaza Strip, Golan Heights and Egypt’s Sinai Desert.

The home was originally owned by the Palestinian Nuseibeh family, which leased the property to Jewish residents before 1948, for 99 years, according to Wattan TV.

Despite the expiration of the lease, Israeli settlement groups launched a legal effort to seize the property in 2014.

In October last year, Israel’s high court ruled in favor of the settlers.

The court’s ruling is made possible by Israel’s 1950 Absentee Property Law, which allows Israel to seize land and property owned by Palestinian refugees who fled or were expelled from their homes during and after the Nakba.

Under a 1970 amendment to its law, Israel allowed Jews to reclaim Jerusalem properties they left in 1948, but did not allow the same right to Palestinians – a blatantly racist measure.

The settlers who are being given the Abu Asab house are not related to the previous Jewish occupants.

The Jewish family who originally lived in the home handed the property to a trust.

“A few years ago, settlers managed to appoint themselves as directors of this trust, and in their name they sued the family who lived in the property,” according to the Israeli group Peace Now. “With this crooked legal situation, the court granted the settlers the house and the Abu Asab family became refugees for the second time.”

The Abu Asab family paid rent consistently to the guardian of the absentee property, and was surprised by the 2014 campaign for their eviction.

Under discriminatory Israeli law, the Abu Asab family cannot return to their original home in Baqa or even demand compensation.

Another Palestinian family, the Sabbaghs, also faces imminent eviction from its home in occupied East Jerusalem’s Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood.

The family had received an order from occupation authorities that if they did not leave their house, which is also wanted by settlers, by 23 January, then they would also face forced removal. That could happen any day.

Entrenching occupation

There has been an increase in forced evictions of Palestinians in Jerusalem’s Old City and surrounding areas by Israel and settlement organizations, according to Ir Amim, an Israeli group that documents settlement activity in the city.

An Israeli government settlement agency has allocated $55 million for projects in Jerusalem.

The so-called Company for the Reconstruction and Development of the Jewish Quarter will use the money to renovate several Jewish religious sites under the guise of improving tourism routes.

“The privatization of project management to nationalist settler organizations enables the Israeli government to exploit tourism as a tool for reinforcing settlement initiatives in the Old City and its environs, erasing the significant Palestinian presence there,” Ir Amim stated.

Ir Amim published a map showing Israel’s expansion of a settlement ring around Jerusalem’s Old City to further entrench its control.

Israel is “promulgating the idea of the entire area as an Israeli environment, and imposing a nationalistic Israeli character that blurs the multi-religious and multicultural nature of the space, primarily to the detriment of the Muslim sites and presence.”

Israeli occupation forces also placed new locks on the Bab al-Rahma entrance to the al-Aqsa mosque compound on Sunday to prevent the Islamic Waqf, or trust, from using the site.

Palestinians were planning a prayer near the site as form of resistance to the occupation’s incursions in the city.

Firas al-Dibs, a spokesperson for the Islamic Waqf, said that Israeli police also closed the gates to the al-Aqsa mosque compound, attacked worshippers inside its courtyard and arrested Palestinians, as shown in pictures below:

Palestinians prayed in front of the gate on Monday in defiance of Israeli measures.
On Monday afternoon, Palestinian youths broke the chains placed by occupation forces and opened Bab al-Rahma to worshippers.


Tamara Nassar

Tamara Nassar is an assistant editor at The Electronic Intifada.