Rep. Pocan on Israeli police violence at Sheikh Jarrah


Israeli forces detain a man after storming Palestinian houses whose families face eviction in the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood of East Jerusalem, 4 May 2021 (AFP)

Lubna Masarwa, Mustafa Abu Sneineh, Middle East Eye, 5 May 2021

Israeli military police stormed Palestinian houses in the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood of occupied East Jerusalem on Tuesday evening, attacking activists taking part in a sit-in solidarity protest with residents facing imminent eviction.

Three Palestinians were arrested and six injured, local sources told Middle East Eye. The Red Crescent reported that two Palestinians had been hospitalised.

Since the beginning of 2020, Israeli courts have ordered the eviction of 13 Palestinian families in Sheikh Jarrah, a residential area less than a kilometre away from the walls of the Old City of Jerusalem.

Muna al-Kurd, who was attacked on Tuesday evening, told MEE that if Israeli police and settlers take over their houses, “then they will take the whole neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah”.

‘The police attacked the residents and activists who were there in solidarity with us. They brutally beat everyone with batons, sprayed skunk water and dispersed people with mounted horses’

– Abdel Fattah Iskafi, resident

Kurd, whose brother Mahmoud owns one of the houses and was among those arrested, called for international and Palestinian activists to stop the eviction and stand against the Israeli settlers and police.

On Sunday, Israel’s Supreme Court ordered that the Iskafi, Kurd, Jaanoi and Qassem families – consisting of 30 adults and 10 children – evacuate their homes by 6 May.

The court gave the Hammad, Dagani and Daoudi families living in the same area until 1 August to evacuate.

Sheikh Jarrah

Abdel Fattah Iskafi told MEE that his family had lived in their home for decades.

“Israeli special forces besieged Sheikh Jarrah in the evening and didn’t allow anyone from outside, especially the solidarity activists, to enter it,” he explained.

“This was after the iftar of Ramadan. There were dozens of police and special forces, at least 60 of them, more than the whole population of Sheikh Jarrah.”

Despite the tight military cordon around the neighbourhood, activists managed to find routes to reach the houses in the area. 

“At about 11pm, the police attacked the residents and the activists who were there in solidarity with us. They brutally beat everyone with batons, sprayed skunk water and dispersed people with mounted horses,” Iskafi said.

Iskafi, who lives with 14 members of his extended family, including his children and grandchildren, confirmed that they would remain in Sheikh Jarrah despite the Supreme Court order.

“We are not going to leave our home, we will remain until the last breath. No one can take away my memories and my heart from my home. We are not going to move anywhere and despite the stress and tough conditions, we are trying to continue our normal daily routine here,” Iskafi told MEE.

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Israeli forces storm the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood of East Jerusalem on 4 May 2021 (AFP)

Iskafi is one of the Palestinian families living in homes built in Sheikh Jarrah in 1956 with the approval of the UN agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA) and the Jordanian authorities who ruled the West Bank and East Jerusalem from 1948 until 1967, when Israel captured them.

Since Israel seized East Jerusalem in the 1967 war, Israeli settler organisations have claimed ownership of the land in Sheikh Jarrah and have filed multiple successful lawsuits to evict Palestinians from the neighbourhood since 1972. 

In 2002, 43 Palestinians were evicted from the area and Israeli settlers took over their properties. In 2008, the Hanoun and Ghawi families were evicted and in 2017 the Shamasneh family was removed from their home by Israeli settlers.

Aref Hammad, whose family is facing eviction, and is head of the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood committee, told MEE that Israeli settlers were pushing the Palestinian residents to recognise “their ownership of the land”.