Israeli settlers began moving into part of a home in east Jerusalem on Sunday, as police officers enforced a court order requiring the Palestinian family living there to vacate part of it.
The process is the culmination of a years-long battle over the home in the Ras al-Amud neighbourhood, which pitted a Palestinian family against Irving Moskowitz, a millionaire backer of Israeli settlement in the east of the city.
Moskowitz argued that he legally bought the property from Jewish organisations that owned the land before the establishment of Israel in 1948.
But the Palestinian family living in the building, the Hamdallahs, have been there since 1952, and argued that they maintained their rights to the home and surrounding land.
In 2005, an Israeli court ruled that the family could stay in parts of the house constructed before 1989, but handed one room in the building and the land surrounding it to Moskowitz.
Khaled Hamdallah, a member of the family, told AFP that a court had upheld that decision last week.
“There was a court decision last week that said we had to move out of the room and that they could take it over. The police are here and are letting them take it,” he said.
An AFP photographer on the scene saw several Israelis accompanied by police take possession of the room, installing corrugated metal over the windows of the room, effectively a semi-detached flat with garden around it.
“There are 12 of us who’ll have to live in what’s left of the house. They do what they want,” Hamdallah said.
The house is surrounded by the Israeli settlement neighbourhood of Maaleh HaZeitim, where Israeli press reports say 100 apartments have already been constructed.
Israel regards all of Jerusalem, including the eastern part it captured in 1967, as its “eternal and indivisible” capital. It regards construction in any part of the city as legitimate and rejects its description as settlement activity.
But the Palestinians want east Jerusalem to be the capital of their future state. The international community has never recognised Israel’s annexation of the eastern sector and considers Israeli building there as settlement construction.