26 October 2006
On Monday 26 October 2009 at 4pm, a group of about 40 – 50 international and Israeli citizens, taking part in a tour organised by the Alternative Information Centre visited the Palestinian neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah. They gathered outside of the house of the Gawi family which was recently forcefully evicted from their house, only for it to be taken over by settlers.
Israeli police units summoned by the settlers occupying the Gawi family house, arrived at the scene and responded to what they claimed was an illegal demonstration by clearly disproportionate violence. In an attempt to disperse the crowd, the police arrested four participants of the tour – an Israeli rabbi, Yehiel Grenimann from Rabbis for Human Rights, a Greek diplomat, Tina Strikou and two international activists.
At first, only one police unit arrived to the area and started pushing the crowd away from the Gawi family house, to the other side of the street where the family has been living since they were forcefully evicted on 2 August 2009. Those who refused to move or moved slowly were violently pushed by the police. Two more police units arrived later and, using a loud-speaker, made an announcement in Hebrew, apparently an order to leave the area or to move to the sidewalk opposite to the Gawi family house within 5 minutes.
The police then started to collect passport information from the remaining visitors. When Tina Strikou, a Greek diplomat, protested that the police didn’t have the right to do this and demanded they return her passport, she was forcefully taken into custody.
A couple of minutes later, an Israeli rabbi Yehiel Grenimann from Rabbits for Human Rights, who was standing in the middle of the street was pushed back towards the sidewalk by a police officer. When he gently resisted, the police forcefully arrested him. He lost his glasses and a shoe while the police dragged him into their car. An international activist who was filming the arrest of the rabbi from close range became the third person to be arrested and taken away from the scene.
In the last couple of days, residents of Sheikh Jarrah have seen a rise in harassment form the police and Israeli authorities, as well as violence and provocative actions from the side of the settlers occupying houses which belong to the Gawi and Hannoun family. Last Tuesday 20 October, a group of settlers attacked several members of the Gawi family, mainly women and children. The attack resulted in seven Palestinians injured and six detained. On Sunday 18 October 2009, the police and municipality workers came to the tent where the Gawi family lives and verbally ordered them to remove the tent before Sunday 25 October 2009.
Furthermore, on Tuesday, 27 October, the second hearing of the Sabagh family from Sheikh Jarrah will take place. Similar to the families Al-Kurd, Gawi, and Hannoun, the Sabagh family is also under the threat of eviction.
The Gawi and Hannoun families, consisting of 53 members including 20 children, have been left homeless after they were forcibly evicted from their houses on 2 August 2009. The Israeli forces surrounded the homes of the two families at 5.30am and, breaking in through the windows, forcefully dragged all residents into the street. The police also demolished the neighbourhood’s protest tent, set up by Um Kamel, following the forced eviction of her family in November 2008.
At present, all three houses are occupied by settlers and the whole area is patrolled by armed private settler security 24 hours a day. Both Hannoun and Gawi families, who have been left without suitable alternative accommodation since August, continue to protest against the unlawful eviction from the sidewalk across the street from their homes, facing regular attacks from the settlers and harassment from the police.
The Karm Al-Ja’ouni neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah is home to 28 Palestinian families, all refugees from 1948, who received their houses from the UNRWA and Jordanian government in 1956. All face losing their homes in the manner of the Hannoun, Gawi and al-Kurd families.
The aim of the settlers is to turn the whole area into a new Jewish settlement and to create a Jewish continuum that will effectively cut off the Old City form the northern Palestinian neighborhoods. Implanting new Jewish settlements in East Jerusalem and the West Bank is illegal under many international laws, including Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention.