In the culmination of years of legal wrangling, Israeli police evicted more than 50 Palestinians from a pair of homes in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah today, following a decision by the nation’s High Court that the homes legally belonged to Jews. The homes were immediately occupied by Israeli settlers, sparking international outcry.
The convoluted dispute over the buildings is at the center of a plan to construct a settlement for religious settlers in the neighborhood, a plan being bankrolled in part by a wealthy American financier, Irving Moskowitz.
Documents show the homes were legally purchased by the Palestinian families in 1958, when East Jerusalem was Jordanian territory. The families have lived there ever since, though the Israeli government occupied the city in 1967.
The Israeli High Court, however, ruled that Jewish families had legally purchased the property decades prior, when East Jerusalem was under the control of the Ottoman Empire, and that this trumped the claims of the families that had lived there for over 50 years. The homes will now be used as part of Jerusalem’s plan to construct apartments to expand a settlement in the area.
The United Nations criticized today’s evictions as “unacceptable,” and the British Consulate, which is located in the neighborhood, said the move was contrary to Israel’s stated desire to achieve peace with the Palestinians.