By Robert Berger, VOA News, August 2, 2009
Photo: Israeli Jews enter a house after police evicted its Palestinian residents in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah, 02 Aug 2009
Jerusalem - Israel evicted dozens of Palestinians from their homes in Jerusalem on Sunday. The move touches on one of the core issues of the Middle East conflict.
Israeli police moved into the Arab neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah in disputed East Jerusalem and forcibly removed more than 50 Palestinians from their homes. They were members of two families who have lived in the area for more than 50 years.
U.N. officials say they saw Jewish settlers moving in afterwards to occupy the houses.
"They [are] planning to take house by house, and they claim that they own all this neighborhood," said Maher Hannoun, one of the evicted Palestinians.
Police cited a ruling by Israel's Supreme Court that the houses belong to Jews and that the Arab families had been living there illegally. The court backed Jewish settlers who produced documents showing that the property was legally purchased from its former Arab owner. But Hannoun called that "nonsense".
"I'm sure that later, they can't take any house from this neighborhood because our lawyer, he has all the documents to prove that another Palestinian owns this land," he said.
Israel captured East Jerusalem from Jordan during the Six Day War in 1967 and claims the city as its capital. But the Palestinians want East Jerusalem as the capital of their future state.
The U.S. State Department condemned the evictions, saying "unilateral actions . . . cannot prejudge the outcome of negotiations and will not be recognized by the international community."
Israel has rejected repeated U.S. demands for a freeze on settlement activity in East Jerusalem and the West Bank, leading tensions with Washington. Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says the right of Jews to build and live anywhere in Jerusalem is not negotiable.