JERUSALEM (Reuters) – A Palestinian facing eviction by Israeli police from the flashpoint East Jerusalem neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah threatened on Monday to blow up gas canisters at his home rather than let his family be forced out.
Scores of police in riot gear surrounded the property from early morning during an hours-long stand-off. Roads were sealed off around the area, about 1 kilometer (one-half mile) north of Jerusalem’s Old City walls, where clashes often erupted last year between Palestinians and Jewish settlers.
Jerusalem’s municipality expropriated the land to build a school, in an area Israel captured and occupied in a 1967 war, along with the rest of East Jerusalem, and later annexed. An Israeli court ruled in favour of the eviction.
“I will burn the house and everything in it, I will not leave here, from here to the grave, because there is no life, no dignity,” Mahmoud Salhiyeh said as he stood on the roof of the building, surrounded by gas canisters.
“I’ve been in battle with them for 25 years, they sent me settlers who offered to buy the house and I did not agree.”
A tree-lined area of sandstone homes, foreign consulates and luxury hotels, Sheikh Jarrah has become an emblem of what Palestinians regard as an Israeli campaign to force them out of East Jerusalem.
Israeli Internal Security Minister Omer Bar-Lev said on Monday a court had ruled the case was one of illegal squatting.
“You can’t hold the stick at both ends by both demanding that the municipality take action on welfare for Arab residents and oppose the building of educational establishments for their welfare,” Bar-Lev wrote on Twitter.
As Sheikh Jarrah residents and activists monitored the situation from nearby rooftops, the British Consulate in East Jerusalem, located opposite the home, tweeted that Consul-General Diane Corner had joined other diplomats to “bear witness to the ongoing eviction”.
The consulate said that such evictions in occupied territory, in all but the most exceptional circumstances, were against international humanitarian law. It urged the Israeli government to “cease such practices which only serve to increase tensions on the ground”.
(Reporting by Ammar Awad, Dedi Hayun, Ilan Rosenberg and Stephen Farrell in Sheikh Jarrah, Dan Williams in Jerusalem; Editing by Jeffrey Heller and Mark Heinrich)