Israel: Palestinian residents facing eviction from disputed property climb on to roof and threaten to set gas canisters on fire

January 17, 2022

Palestinian residents facing eviction by Israeli police from a disputed property have taken gas canisters on to the roof and threatened to set them on fire rather than be forced out.

Scores of police officers in riot gear surrounded the building during an hours-long stand-off in the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood in east Jerusalem.

The Salhiyeh family is one of dozens of Palestinian families in the area at risk of eviction.

Standing on the roof, Mahmoud Salhiyeh vowed not to leave what he said was his home.

He said: "I will burn the house and everything in it, I will not leave here, from here to the grave, because there is no life, no dignity.

"I've been in battle with them for 25 years, they sent me settlers who offered to buy the house and I did not agree."

Israel captured east Jerusalem, along with the West Bank, in the 1967 war and annexed it.

The Palestinians want east Jerusalem to be the capital of their future state.

Members of the Salhiyeh family say they purchased the property before 1967, while authorities have argued in court that the family does not have rights to it.

The Jerusalem Municipality formally seized the property in 2017 in order to build a special needs school, it said, but the Salhiyeh family continued to run a plant nursery there.

The family is waiting for a verdict on their appeal against a court's 2021 ruling in favour of the city but the judge did not freeze the eviction order.

Authorities and the police issued a joint statement saying the court ordered the family to vacate the property a year ago.

Hagit Ofran, a director of Israeli peace campaign group, Peace Now, said he sympathised with their plight.

"Why take out families from their home and not use another public land that you already confiscated in the past and gave it to settlers, this is discrimination."

But Omer Barlev, the Israeli Cabinet minister in charge of police, said the government is in a no-win situation.

"You can't have it both ways - to demand that the municipality act for the welfare of the Arab residents, and also to oppose the construction of educational institutions for their welfare," he wrote on Twitter.

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