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Sheikh Jarrah residents charged with refusing to leave their homes

5 May 2009

The court cases of Maher Hannoun and Afed El Fatah Gawi, charged with contempt of court for refusing to leave their homes, were yesterday postponed until the 17th May. Hannoun, 51, and El Fatah, 87, are residents of the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood in occupied East Jerusalem where a spate of houses are threatened with eviction in Israel’s latest attempted purge of the Palestinian people.

Support for the families of Sheikh Jarrah has been rife amongst international and Israeli activists. They joined friends and family of Hannoun and Gawi outside the court yesterday in a show of solidarity, waving banners and cheering as the accused walked out of court with their freedom intact, albeit temporarily. Inside the courtroom were representatives from the US and French consulate, who sympathise with the families cause and along with the Czech consulate, are pressuring Israel to stop these evictions.

Hannoun has already served three months in prison for the same offence in 2008, and the latest trial comes as a result of the eviction order given to his family on the 15th of March this year. Jewish settlers have been trying to claim the land of Sheikh Jarrah since the early 1970’s and following the eviction of the Al Kurds’ last year, the Hanouns’ and Gawis’ look set to be the latest victims of Israel’s wider policy of ethnic cleansing in East Jerusalem.

A new eviction order was given to the families just prior to leaving for the court, increasing the likelihood of imminent eviction. They remain defiant though, and have been joined by international activists in staying up through the night in expectation of the police’s arrival. The stress placed on these families’ is huge, with all the furniture removed the houses and the children distraught at the prospect of losing their home.

The families, together with international and Israeli activists, are calling for people to continue to visit their homes in an attempt to maintain the media attention and ward off the police from going through with the eviction.