An Israeli court has postponed a hearing in the case of two Palestinian families facing forced displacement from their homes in the Batn al-Hawa area in the occupied East Jerusalem neighbourhood of Silwan.
The Ghaith and Abu Nab families were joined by a group of supporters who gathered outside the Israeli central court on Thursday to demonstrate against the forced expulsions.
Israeli forces attacked the protesters and arrested three Palestinians identified as Basel al-Dweik, Adel al-Silwadi and Nitham Abu Ramooz.
The court hearing was delayed until August 7.
The Ghaith and Abu Nab families are two of hundreds threatened with forced expulsion from their homes in the neighbourhoods of Silwan and Sheikh Jarrah, where Israeli settler organisations are seeking to replace Palestinians with Israelis.
Last month, an Israeli court postponed its decision on an appeal lodged by seven other Palestinian families from Silwan facing forced displacement from their homes.
Earlier this week, the Jerusalem municipality issued a series of demolition orders to residents of the al-Bustan area in Silwan. The families affected, consisting of some 1,500 people, were given 21 days to evacuate and demolish their houses themselves. Failure to do so would mean the municipality will demolish the houses and families would have to cover the demolition costs.
Since 2005, residents of al-Bustan have received warnings to demolish nearly 90 homes under the pretext of building without a permit, in favour of a settler organisation that seeks to turn the land into a national park and link it to the archaeological “City of David” park.
According to Grassroots Jerusalem, a Palestinian NGO, both home demolitions and court-ordered forced displacements are tactics used to expel Palestinian residents.
It's highly important to note: the displacement policy is a continuous policy used against Jerusalemites. The occupation authorities systematically prevent building permits from Palestinian residents, forcing them to build homes without permits. Then they charge heavy fines.
— Grassroots Al-Quds (@grassroots_quds) June 9, 2021
In a statement on Thursday, Palestinian rights organisation Al-Haq said Palestinians in occupied East Jerusalem make up the majority of the population, but “Israeli zoning laws have allocated 35 percent of the land area for the construction of illegal settlements by Israeli settlers”.
Another 52 percent of the land area has been “allocated as ‘green areas’ and ‘unplanned areas’ in which construction is prohibited,” the statement said.
Silwan is located to the south of Jerusalem’s Old City, adjacent to its walls.
At least 33,000 Palestinians live in the neighbourhood, which has been targeted by Israeli settler organisations for years. In some cases, Palestinian residents have been forced to share homes with settlers.
Some of these families have been living in Silwan for more than 50 years since they were displaced from the Old City in the 1960s.
In 2001, Ateret Cohanim, an Israeli settler organisation that aims to acquire land and increase the Jewish presence in occupied East Jerusalem, took control of a historic Jewish land trust.
Established in the 19th century, the trust bought land in the area to relocate Yemeni Jews at the time. The settler organisation has claimed in court that the trust it controls owns the land.
Under Israeli law, if Jews can prove that their families lived in East Jerusalem before the establishment of Israel in 1948, they can request the “return” of their property, even if Palestinian families have been living there for decades. The law only applies to Israelis and Palestinians do not have the same rights under it.
“There’s a clear discrimination here, where Jews can claim back any property that they claim they owned in the past prior to 1948, while Palestinians who lost their homeland in 500 villages inside Israel, including West Jerusalem, cannot claim back their property,” Mohammed Dahleh, a lawyer representing some of the Silwan families, told Al Jazeera.
“Those families cannot claim back their properties, although they hold Israeli identity cards and are considered as residents of the state of Israel by Israeli law,” he continued.
“This means that this community, if the Israeli courts eventually approve this kind of forcible displacement, will become refugees for the second time.”