Jerusalem24 – The struggle of the people living in the Sheikh Jarrah continues, with a court hearing due tomorrow on the 6th of May. The last time Jerusalem24 spoke with community members in the neighborhood, they were starting to mobilize their grassroots campaign to protect their homes from confiscation.
Since then a lot has happened in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood. Palestinian youth have organized sit-ins in solidarity with the residents of the neighborhood, and nightly clashes with the Israeli security forces. Aref Hammad, a resident facing eviction, told
Jerusalem24 “We are currently in a great dilemma.” He continued to describe the nightly problems, “there is a fierce attack by the police, army and border guards.” The Israeli security forces repressed any activity using horse mounted forces, and waste water trucks. “it was spraying water around the neighborhood, and the smell that it left was strong,” said Hammad. Describing the events of one night of clashes, Hammad said that “there were attacks by soldiers against the houses, they attacked women and children and even broke a young man’s leg.”
These events have become a staple in recent nights, as youth arrive in the evening around the homes threatened with eviction. “The youth are present on a nightly basis, they come after ftour and remain long after taraweeh prayers,” says Hammad. Ftour is the evening meal Muslims eat in the early evening after fasting. “They are making a good stand with us,” he says about them.
Early in 2021, the Israeli Magistrate Court issued a new decision giving 4 families from the neighborhood until next May to leave their homes, and 3 other families were given until next August to do the same. The Israeli authorities plan to build 200 settlement units on the lands and homes of the people of Sheikh Jarrah. This plan serves the Israeli vision of encircling the Old City of Jerusalem with a geographic extension of settlements, and suffocating Palestinian neighborhoods and disconnecting them.
“The judge wants to set a precedent to pressure us one way or another to admit that these settlers are the owners of the lands or not,” says Hammad. He believes that the Israeli judge is trying to create a balance before the courts. Hammad says that “the case has been active for the past 49 years, and they have not been able to take anything until now, and we will remain steadfast in our homes.”
In 1956, the Jordanian government made an agreement with UNRWA to house these families. According to the agreement, after residing in their new homes for some years the ownership of the homes will be registered to the families in the Jordanian Land Registry. However that did not happen as Israel occupied the city following the six-day war in 1967.
Hammad, told Jerusalem24 they are not alone in these problems with the settlers. He said that “All the Palestinians in Jerusalem are facing the settlers.” He adds that “it is true that we are being especially targeted because of the sensitivity of our site in addition to the plans they drew in the past, and how rushed they are to implement them today.”