Settlers, who have since August 2009 taken over three houses in the Palestinian neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah in occupied East Jerusalem, have, after a series of violent attacks, initiated a number of actions this week with the intention of intimidating and harassing local Palestinians forcefully evicted from their homes.
In the past couple of days, Israeli settlers have three times harassed the evicted Palestinians. Even though their actions were not particularly violent, they highlight the daily suffering the Palestinians have to endure as the settlers take over more and more houses in the neighbourhood. The situation is especially difficult for the al-Kurds, as they have been forced to live alongside the settlers in their own house. On 1 December, a group of settlers occupied one section of the al-Kurd home which shares the same entrance gate and backyard as the other section, where the Palestinian family lives.
In the first incident, in the evening of Sunday 6 December, a group of about ten settlers occupying the front part of the al-Kurd, collected wood and set fire to it inside an oil barrel outside the house. They stole the oil barrel from the al-Kurds and proceeded to burn flammable items from the Kurd family belongings that the settlers took from the confiscated home and threw into the al-Kurds’ garden during the 1 December take-over. When the Kurd family discovered the theft in progress, they stopped the settlers by taking the barrel with burning wood away from them.
The second incident followed on Thursday 8 December at 9am, when one of the settler leaders called Shlomo stopped by at the al-Kurd family tent built outside of their confiscated house. Nabeel Kurd, father of the family, was alone in the tent. Shlomo verbally harassed Nabeel, including insults that were perceived as a threat to kill Nabeel.
The third incident happened in the evening of 8 December 2009, as settler youths that occupy the confiscated al-Kurd and Gawi houses vandalised a mural art painted by the local Palestinian children on the walls of the Ghawi, al-Kurd, and Qassem family properties. The settlers painted over the art with white paint; on the al-Kurd wall an elaborate painting of Handala, a famous Palestinian freedom cartoon figure, was covered with Israeli stars of David. Along with the Israeli flags hanging from the houses that the settlers have taken over in Sheikh Jarrah, these symbols further accentuate the presence of the Jewish settlers in the Palestinian neighbourhood and their goal to take over the whole area, drive out its Palestinian population and build a new Jewish-only settlement.
So far, over 60 Palestinians living in the Karm Al-Ja’ouni neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah have been left homeless after being forcibly evicted from their homes by settlers aided by the Israeli forces.
The Gawi and Hannoun families, consisting of 53 members including 20 children, were thrown out from their homes on 2 August 2009. The Israeli forces surrounded the homes of the two families at 5.30am and, breaking in through the windows, forcefully dragged all residents into the street. The police also demolished the neighbourhood’s protest tent, set up by Um Kamel, following the forced eviction of her family in November 2008. In addition, an uninhabited section of another house belonging to the al-Kurd family was taken over by setters on 1 December 2009.
At present, all four houses are occupied by settlers and the whole area is patrolled by armed private settler security 24 hours a day. Both Hannoun and Gawi families, who have been left without suitable alternative accommodation since August, continue to protest against the unlawful eviction from the sidewalk across the street from their homes, facing regular attacks from the settlers and harassment from the police.
The Karm Al-Ja’ouni neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah is home to 28 Palestinian families, all refugees from 1948, who received their houses from the UNRWA and Jordanian government in 1956. All face losing their homes in the manner of the Hannoun, Gawi and al-Kurd families.
The aim of the settlers is to turn the whole area into a new Jewish settlement and to create a Jewish continuum that will effectively cut off the Old City form the northern Palestinian neighborhoods. Implanting new Jewish settlements in East Jerusalem and the West Bank is illegal under many international laws, including Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention.
The plight of the Gawi, al-Kurd and the Hannoun families is just a small part of Israel’s ongoing campaign of ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian people from East Jerusalem.