Israel releases Sheikh Jarrah activists after hours-long arrests

Siblings Muna and Mohammed al-Kurd are activists behind a social media campaign against forced expulsions of Palestinians in the occupied East Jerusalem neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah.

Muna and Mohammad al-Kurd after being released by Israeli authorities in East Jerusalem's Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood [Ahmad Gharabli/AFP]

Activists Muna al-Kurd and Mohammed al-Kurd, who have been at the forefront of a campaign to stop the expulsions of Palestinians from occupied East Jerusalem’s Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood, have been released from custody several hours after they were arrested by Israeli police.

“No matter what they do to terrorise and frighten us, no number of arrests will scare us off,” Muna told reporters after her release on Sunday.

“We will remain in our homes and we will continue to defend our land that we were born and raised on,” she said.


Mohammed told reporters: “We are not afraid, we are not intimidated, we are going to continue to speak out against all of these injustices, and we’re going to continue to protect our homes.”

Earlier, Nabil al-Kurd, father of the 23-year-old twins, said Muna was arrested after police raided their home in Sheikh Jarrah, while Mohammed had turned himself in at a police station after receiving a summons.

“They want to remove us [from Jerusalem] … but we are here,” Nabil al-Kurd told reporters.

“The weapons of the Palestinians are the camera, and the words – whereas the Israeli army is heavily armed.”

The Palestinian Red Crescent Society said 10 people were injured when Israeli forces fired rubber bullets and stun grenades at protesters outside a police station who were calling for the release of the activists.

The arrests of the activists come a day after Al Jazeera Arabic journalist Givara Budeiri was arrested while covering a demonstration in Sheikh Jarrah. Budeiri was released hours later after her arrest drew global condemnation.

Lawyer Nasser Odeh, speaking outside the police station earlier on Sunday, said the siblings faced “committing acts that disturb public security” and “taking part in riots”.


“The reason for the arrest is that we say that we will not leave our homes, and they do not want anyone to express his opinion, they do not want anyone to tell the truth,” Nabil al-Kurd told Associated Press by phone. “They want to silence us.”

A video posted on social media showed Muna being taken from the home in handcuffs. “Don’t be afraid,” she is seen telling her family, as she is being led out of the house by Israeli police.

Al Jazeera’s Hoda Abdel-Hamid, reporting from occupied East Jerusalem, said: “Muna al-Kurd says she was specifically chosen to be detained because she has become a bit of a symbol of what is going on in Sheikh Jarrah, the voice of the families that are facing these forced expulsions.”


Police had confirmed the arrest of the 23-year-old woman for allegedly participating in “public disturbances” in Sheikh Jarrah.

Mohammad al-Kurd, along with his sister, are behind a three-month-old #SaveSheikhJarrah social media campaign against the expulsions of Palestinians from their homes.

Partly thanks to the siblings, the story of Sheikh Jarrah – a neighbourhood in Israeli-annexed East Jerusalem – has become a global hashtag since last month.


‘Tormenting us, harassing us’

Half of the al-Kurd family home was taken over by Israeli settlers in 2009. Mohammed previously told Al Jazeera that sharing their home with “squatters with Brooklyn accents” was “insufferable, intolerable [and] terrible”.

“They are just sitting in our home, tormenting us, harassing us, doing everything they can to not only force us to leave the second half of our home but also harassing our neighbours into leaving their homes as part of an effort to completely annihilate the presence of Palestinians from Jerusalem,” Mohammed, who, along with Muna, was 11 years old when the settlers forced their way in, said.

In recent months, the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood has seen a series of sit-ins by Palestinians to protest against Israeli orders for them to vacate their homes, which they have described as a continuation of the ethnic cleansing that began with the Nakba in 1948. Palestinian families also face being expelled from the Silwan area of East Jerusalem.


Rights groups say up to 1,000 Palestinians in Sheikh Jarrah and the nearby Silwan district face being forcefully displaced.

Israel occupied East Jerusalem in 1967 in a move never recognised by the international community.

Under Israeli law, Jewish groups can claim land that belonged to Jews before the foundation of Israel in 1948, even if Palestinian families had been living there for decades.


Palestinians whose ancestors became refugees in the 1948 war have no means to retrieve their homes or land in modern-day Israel. More than 700,000 Palestinians were driven from their homes in 1948 when Israel was declared an independent state.

Beatings, tear gas and sound bombs

On Monday night, dozens of Israeli forces stormed the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood and assaulted Palestinian families by beating and shooting tear gas and sound bombs at them.

According to local Palestinian media, 20 people were injured, and at least four Palestinian men and one girl were arrested, with two being released on Tuesday.

Last March, the Israeli district court in occupied East Jerusalem ratified orders for six Palestinian families – the al-Kurds included – in Sheikh Jarrah to vacate their homes in order to make way for settlers. The same court also ruled that another seven families should leave their homes by August 1.

An Israeli court is due to announce its verdict in the case.

The protests in Sheikh Jarrah spread early last month to the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, the third holiest site in Islam, sparking a crackdown by Israeli security forces against Palestinian worshippers. The storming of Al-Aqsa by Israeli forces caused global outrage.

The Israeli crackdown in occupied East Jerusalem and the raid on Al-Aqsa prompted Hamas, the group that governs Gaza, to fire rockets on Israel, after Israeli security forces ignored a deadline to vacate the mosque.

Israel launched an 11-day military assault on Gaza that left more than 250 Palestinians dead, including 66 children.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies