Jewish Settlers Take Over Homes in Arab Area of East Jerusalem
JERUSALEM (AP) _ An ultra-conservative Jewish settlers’ group seized at least six homes in an Arab neighborhood of east Jerusalem today, pressing its claim that Jews have a right to live anywhere in the city.
Police removed the settlers from all but two of the dwellings, deeming the pre-dawn occupation a provocation and threat to public order.
An agreement was then reached to have the settlers and legislators remain in one house until a legal opinion could be obtained on the legality of the seizure, Police Minister Roni Milo said.
A second house was sealed by police as the Arab family that claimed to own it watched from outside. The Jewish settlers, many of them armed, put up barbed wire around the house they still occupied.
The occupation occurred in Silwan, where frequent confrontations between police and Palestinian uprising activists have taken place. The settlers claimed they had purchased the properties and many were abandoned.
Right-wing legislators said the government permitted the takeover, an assertion that Milo disputed.
″It seems strange that in order to enter privately owned homes in Jerusalem, you have to come in the dead of night,″ Milo added.
Police said the settlers initially had moved into six homes, though they may have entered more of the houses.
An Arab family of seven that lived in one of the houses had been away at a family wedding and returned later this morning to find their home still occupied by the settlers.
″This is my house, not anybody else’s 3/8″ shouted Jamil Ahmed Abasi, waving the house keys. His wife was crying.
Israel annexed east Jerusalem after seizing it in the 1967 Middle East war. Palestinians say east Jerusalem should be the capital of a Palestinian state; Israel claims the entire city as its capital.
The attempted move into Silwan comes as the United States is trying to bring Israel, the Palestinians and Arab states to a peace conference at which the future of Jerusalem would be a key issue.
It also came after the Bush administration delayed congressional consideration of an Israeli request for $10 billion in loan guarantees to help settle Soviet immigrants. Washington has repeatedly protested the building of Jewish settlements in occupied territories.
″If one result (of the action) will be that it will be difficult to convene the peace conference, I certainly won’t be sorry about it,″ said Science Minister Yuval Neeman of the ultra-rightist Tehiya Party.
Neeman was among five legislators at the site supporting the settlers.
Abasi, 45, said a government department in charge of property held by absentee owners sent him a notice six months ago demanding that he leave. Abasi said he challenged the order, and that a hearing is scheduled for Oct. 20.
The settler group - Ateret Cohanim - hopes to take over properties in Jerusalem’s Muslim and Christian areas.
Silwan is just outside the walls of the Old City and only a few hundred yards from the Temple Mount. The Temple Mount contains the Western Wall, Judaism’s holiest site, and the Al Aqsa Mosque, the third holiest place of Islam.
The office of Housing Minister Ariel Sharon issued the following statement on the incident: ″It is the right of Jews to live in any area of united Jersualem, the capital of Israel, like any other place in the land of Israel.″
Israeli right-wingers use the phrase ″land of Israel″ to refer to Israel proper and lands seized in the 1967 war.