Israeli police have evicted a Palestinian family from their home of more than 50 years in occupied East Jerusalem, a move denounced by rights groups as part of a wider attempt by pro-settlement groups to “Israelise Palestinian neighbourhoods”.
The members of the Shamasneh family were evacuated early on Tuesday morning after fighting several court battles to keep the house – but Israel’s Supreme Court decided that Israeli claimants were the legal occupants.
Municipality officials backed by armed police officers enforced the court order to remove the family from the home, which was claimed by heirs of a Jewish family forced to abandon it in 1948 when it came under Jordanian control.
Israel took control of the area after the 1967 war and continued existing rental arrangements with Palestinian tenants, but a law allowing Jews to reclaim former homes or repurchase them have created conflicts.
Under Israeli law, Jews who fled East Jerusalem can reclaim their property, however, Palestinians who fled property in 1948 are not afforded similar rights.
Armed officers were seen escorting the Shamasnehs out of the home in Sheikh Jarah neighbourhood, with the elderly Ayoub Shamasneh, 79, carried out by his relatives.
“Our case is a humanitarian case, deeper than a political case,” Mohammed Shamasneh told Al Jazeera ahead of the eviction.
“The humanitarian aspect is that families have been living here peacefully for decades, with love and kindness.”
This is the first evacuation of a Palestinian family in Jerusalem since 2009.
Peace Now, an Israeli anti-settlement group said the eviction of the Shamasneh family is part of wider efforts by pro-settlement groups to “Israelise Palestinian neighbourhoods in East Jerusalem”.
“The eviction of the Shamasneh family, who resided in the house since 1964, is not only brutal but it is also indicating a dangerous trend that could threaten a future compromise in Jerusalem,” the group added.
Shamasneh said that the biggest injustice is to feel like a stranger in one’s own country.
“The catastrophe will be that one day when I pass the house, after they kicked us out, to see an Israeli flag flying,” he said.
According to the European Union, at least 180 households in East Jerusalem face threats of eviction.