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Sheikh Jarrah: Salem family gives cautious welcome to Israeli court's decision to freeze eviction

Palestinian family spared eviction for now, as Israeli magistrates' court acts to avoid protests spreading
A woman waves a Palestinian flag during a protest in the flashpoint neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah in occupied East Jerusalem, 18 February 2022 (AFP)

Palestinians in the occupied East Jerusalem neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah have welcomed an Israeli court's decision to freeze the eviction of the Salem family from their home. 

There was a sense of relief in Sheikh Jarrah on Tuesday night, after weeks of tension and clashes between local Palestinian families and Israeli settlers and forces in the area. 

Khalil Salem, a member of the Palestinian family of 12, told AFP the decision was "a positive step because we were on the verge of losing our house".

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The Salems, six of whom are children, were expected to be evicted from their home at the beginning of March.

Yonatan Yosef, a settler leader and a member of Jerusalem's city council, was set to move into the Palestinian family's house after their eviction.

However, the Israeli magistrates' court in Jerusalem suspended the decision, ordering the Salems to deposit $7,750 with the court while it considers an appeal against the eviction and waits for the settler group to respond to the family's legal claim to the house.

Despite the court's decision, far right Knesset member Itamar Ben-Gvir still has his makeshift office on a plot of land near a Palestinian family's home, the ongoing existence of which is unlikely to help defuse tensions in Sheikh Jarrah.

Court feared ongoing protests

Israeli media reported that the court's decision to indefinitely postpone the eviction of the Salem family from their home in Sheikh Jarrah was made in order to avoid protests in the city, which could continue into the month of Ramadan in April and result in an escalation of violence across the occupied West Bank. 

Last May, Palestinians protested during Ramadan against attempts to evict families from their homes in Sheikh Jarrah.

Israeli authorities have also decided this week against installing metal barriers in the Damascus Gate plaza during Ramadan, to avoid clashes with Palestinians, who hold cultural events in the area during the Muslim holy month.

Palestinians have protested almost daily over the past two weeks in Sheikh Jarrah, which lies less than two kilometres from the ancient walls of Jerusalem's Old City. Israeli settlers continue to claim ownership of Palestinian houses in the neighbourhood, saying Jewish residents lived in them in the final decades of the 19th century. Around 300 Palestinians, all of whom face the prospect of being evicted from their homes by Israeli authorities, live in the neighbourhood.

Israeli crackdown

In January, Israeli forces raided the home of the Salhiya family in Sheikh Jarrah, violently arresting and assaulting family members, then emptying the house and demolishing it. 

On Monday, Israeli officers forcefully grabbed a Palestinian man with Down syndrome in the East Jerusalem neighbourhood during a demonstration outside the Salem family home.

Israeli intelligence and security forces have threatened and prevented Palestinian citizens of Israel and Palestinians from the West Bank from reaching Sheikh Jarrah to protest against the evictions. 

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Israeli security analysts had warned that clashes in Sheikh Jarrah could escalate to engulf the whole of the West Bank and could reach inside Israel and the Gaza Strip.

Occupied by Israel in 1967, Sheikh Jarrah has been a significant flashpoint since May 2021, after Israel tried to expel Palestinian families from the area to make way for Israeli settlers.

This prompted widespread protests across the occupied West Bank and the Palestinian community inside Israel, as well as a large-scale military operation in the besieged Gaza Strip.

Currently, there are more than 200,000 settlers living in East Jerusalem, alongside about 300,000 Palestinian residents.

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