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Sheikh Jarrah: Israel briefly detains Palestinian activist Muna al-Kurd and her brother Mohammed

The twins, both later released, have become icons of the Palestinian struggle against Israeli settler expansion in East Jerusalem
Muna and her twin brother Mohammed al-Kurd have vowed to defy the imminent Israeli court order to displace them from their Jerusalem home (MEE & AFP)

Israeli forces on Sunday arrested the outspoken activist and journalist Muna al-Kurd from her home in the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood in Jerusalem but later released her after hours of questioning, her family and friends reported via social media.

Her brother, Mohammed al-Kurd, turned himself in hours after her arrest, according to footage posted online. He was finally released late on Sunday evening. Film on social media showed him being met by his father, Nabil al-Kurd.

"Their intimidation will not scare us," she told reporters after her release. "It's [an attempt to] muzzle voices."

The siblings, whose family has been living under the threat of imminent displacement from their house in Karm al-Jaouni in occupied East Jerusalem's Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood, have become icons of the Palestinian struggle against Israeli settler expansion. 

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In statements to the Palestinian Wafa news agency, the journalist's father, Nabil al-Kurd, said Israeli forces stormed his house "in a provocative manner" before arresting his daughter Muna and delivered a summons warrant for her brother Mohammed al-Kurd, who was not at home at the time of arrest.

He added that the Israeli forces took his daughter to the police station on Salah El-Din Street in central Jerusalem.

On Saturday, Mohammed al-Kurd said that Israeli settlers threw stones and gas at his home while police did not prevent them from doing so.

The arrest of the Kurds came 12 hours after Israeli police assaulted and briefly detained Al Jazeera correspondent Givara Budeiri and photographer Nabil Mazzawi while press crews were covering the demonstrations in the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood on the 54th anniversary of the Naksa.

In response to an MEE request for comment, the spokesman of the Israeli Police Department in Jerusalem said: "The police arrested under a court order a suspect (23), a resident of East Jerusalem, suspected of participating in riots and violent demonstrations that took place in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood recently. The suspect was taken to the police station for further investigation."

On Friday, at least 23 people were reported to have sustained injuries following a crackdown by Israeli forces on participants in a race that took place in occupied East Jerusalem.

Runners had raced for 3.5km between the East Jerusalem neighbourhoods of Sheikh Jarrah and Silwan in solidarity with the scores of Palestinians facing forced expulsion from their homes in these areas.

All those who took part in the run wore white t-shirts inscribed with the number 7850, which activists say is the total number of Palestinians under threat of forcible displacement in Jerusalem.

'I will not leave my home'

Muna al-Kurd and her twin brother Mohammed have emerged as the social media voices of Palestinians facing the threat of an imminent court ruling that would see them displaced from their homes to give way to Israeli settlers.

Speaking to Middle East Eye in the wake of last month's tensions, al-Kurd expressed her defiance of the court order.

“I will take it upon myself to chain myself in my room should they raid our house to forcibly expel us,” she said.

“I will not leave my home in Sheikh Jarrah.”

Al-Kurd's experience with Israeli harassment started in 2001, three years after she was born, when a section of her home was shuttered and its keys confiscated as a prelude to housing settlers. Half of the family home has been occupied by settlers since 2009.

The historic Sheikh Jarrah district is inhabited by descendants of Palestinian refugees who were expelled from their towns and villages by the Zionist militias during the Palestinian Nakba (Catastrophe) of 1948.  At least 13 families have been ordered to leave their homes in Sheikh Jarrah since May, including 58 people facing the threat of expulsion from their homes where they lived for generations.

In October 2020, an Israeli court ruled in favour of Israeli settlers who claim that some eight Palestinian families in Sheikh Jarrah are living on land that used to belong to Jews.

Palestinians have appealed the decision at Israel's Supreme Court, and the evictions are currently on hold.

On Sunday 9 May the Supreme Court hearing on the evictions was postponed. A new session is due on 8 June. 

Meanwhile, Israeli forces aggressively clamped down on solidarity protests in Sheikh Jarrah and other Palestinian towns in Israel last month, and raided al-Aqsa Mosque. In retaliation, Hamas fired rockets into Israel, and Israel pummelled Gaza with bombs.

At least 248 Palestinians were killed by the Israeli bombardment of Gaza, while 29 were killed in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem by Israeli forces. Another two Palestinian citizens of Israel were killed by Israeli fire in the same period. 

In Israel, rockets fired from Gaza killed at least 12 people. 

Tensions could further escalate later this week as right-wing Israeli groups are planning a march through Jerusalem's Old City on Thursday. A similar march was held on the same day of the Israeli campaign on Gaza but its route was diverted in the last minute due to security concerns.

This article is available in French on Middle East Eye French edition.

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