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'War crime': Israel widely condemned for Sheikh Jarrah demolition

International NGOs and Palestinian groups condemn East Jerusalem demolition as a violation of international law
A Palestinian man holds up the remains of a refrigerator with family photos on it at the site of the Salhiya family's demolished home (Reuters)

Israel has been widely criticised for the overnight demolition of a Palestinian home in the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood of occupied East Jerusalem. 

Palestinian groups and international rights organisations condemned the tearing down of the home of the Salhiya family, which left 18 people homeless including children, as a “war crime”.

The demolition was carried out overnight on Wednesday by a large Israeli security operation, which violently raided the home of Mahmoud Salhiya before arresting him with a number of his relatives and supporters. 

Sheikh Jarrah: Israeli forces tear down Salhiya house in overnight raid
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It followed an eviction order by Israel's Jerusalem municipality which argued that the Salhiyas have no right over the land. 

Mahmoud says the family has owned the house and lived in it for generations since they were expelled by Zionist militia from Ein Karem in 1948 during the Palestinian Nakba, or catastrophe, when some 750,000 Palestinians were violently displaced to create the state of Israel.

Amid news of the demolition and footage of the aftermath of the house in ruins, Human Rights Watch (HRW) called the expulsion of the Salhiyas and the destruction of their home a “war crime”. 

“The Saliyehs were expelled from their home in Ein Karem during the Nakba in 1948 & are barred under Israeli law from reclaiming it,” HRW’s Israel and Palestine director Omar Shakir said in a statement shared on Twitter

“These cruel acts turn the Salhiyehs into two-time refugees. This is what apartheid and persecution look like.”

Ir Amim, a leading Israeli rights group, called the demolition “an inexcusable act and violation of [international law]”. 

“As the world is watching, they [Israeli authorities] chose instead to cynically dispossess a Palestinian family to build a special needs school on the ruins of their homes,” the NGO said. 

The Norwegian Refugee Council, an independent humanitarian organisation, echoed similar criticism.

“The eviction of the family marks a clear violation of international law, which prohibits forcible displacement in occupied territory,” the council said in a tweet

“As the occupying power in East Jerusalem, Israeli authorities have a duty to ensure the security and protection of the Palestinian population.”

Call to protect homes

On Monday, a delegation of European diplomats had visited the site of Salhiya’s home during a standoff with Israeli forces who were attempting to carry out the demolition.

Sven Kuehn von Burgsdorff, head of the European Union's mission to the Palestinian territories, said at the time that "in occupied territory, evictions are a violation of international humanitarian law."

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas also called Wednesday's demolition a "war crime" and urged the United States to "compel the government of the Israeli occupation to stop the policy of ethnic cleansing against the Palestinian people," according to a statement published by the official Wafa news agency.

The Palestinian movement Hamas called the incident a "dangerous escalation of the ongoing war of occupation against the city of Jerusalem and Jerusalemites".

Muhammad Hamadeh, the group’s representative in Jerusalem, called on residents to continue to protect their homes against demolitions, Turkey's Anadolu Agency reported. 

"This crime will not break the determination of the steadfastness of our people in Jerusalem,” Hamadeh said.

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

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