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Sheikh Jarrah: Israel renews assault on Palestinians for second tense night

Police and settlers ramp up attacks on residents of the East Jerusalem neighbourhood, turning it into a 'war zone'
Israeli security forces arrest a Palestinian man in the East Jerusalem neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah on 13 February 2022 (AFP)

Sheikh Jarrah has witnessed a second night of violent Israeli police and settler assaults, turning the occupied East Jerusalem neighbourhood into a "war zone", Palestinian residents said late on Sunday. 

At least 31 people were injured, including medics and a journalist, after Israeli forces used stun grenades and rubber-coated steel bullets to disperse Palestinian crowds, according to local media. Six people have been taken to hospital.  

Skunk water vehicles and mounted police were also deployed. At least 12 Palestinians were arrested. 

Dozens of Palestinian supporters had gathered late in the evening in and around the Salem family home, who are facing imminent expulsion, to stand in solidarity with the family against settler raids. 

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A group of settlers, led by far-right Knesset member Itamar Ben-Gvir, had erected a tent on land adjacent to the Salems' home in the morning and set up a parliamentary office station there. 

Dancing and singing racist, Islamophobic chants, settlers were seen provoking the family, at times assaulting them. 

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Scuffles between the two crowds inside the property erupted periodically throughout the evening. Outside, activists were denied entry by security forces, who closed off all access points into the house for the Palestinians. 

Activist Muna al-Kurd, a resident of Sheikh Jarrah who is also facing imminent expulsion, said in her Instagram live updates that the scene in the area looks like a "war zone". 

Ramzi Abbasi, a Jerusalem activist who documents Israeli assaults in the city, echoed a similar sentiment. 

"It's like military barracks in here," Abbasi said on his Instagram live updates reporting from the ground. "It's very reminiscent of the situation that preceded the Sheikh Jarrah uprising last year."  

The neighbourhood has been a significant flashpoint since May, after Israel tried to expel Palestinian families from the area to make way for Israeli settlers.

This prompted widespread protests across the occupied West Bank and the 48 Palestinian community inside Israel, as well as a large-scale military operation in the besieged Gaza Strip.

Looming expulsion  

The violence on Sunday night followed a tense morning in the neighbourhood after Ben-Gvir announced a day earlier that he intended to open his office in Sheikh Jarrah on a plot of land belonging to the Salem family that was confiscated by settler groups in January. 

Ben-Gvir is head of the Jewish Power party, part of the Religious Zionism political alliance that calls for the eviction of Palestinians from their lands and running Israel according to Torah texts.

Following the announcement on Saturday, dozens of settlers raided the neighbourhood just after midnight, throwing stones at Palestinian homes and damaging cars. 

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Settlers then reached the house of the Salem family and assaulted women and children with pepper spray, residents told Anadolu agency.

"They came out of nowhere and pepper-sprayed me and my neighbour, Abu Mohammad. My eyes were burning and I couldn't open them. I couldn't breathe," Fatima Salem said. 

The Salem family has been fighting for decades in courts against settler claims over their home. 

In 1987, Fatima Salem was ordered by an Israeli court to vacate the house on claims that she couldn't prove her residence there before the death of her parents. Salem says she was born in the house and has lived there since. 

She now lives in the house with her son and daughter and their families. 

The 1987 decision was frozen in the same year but the case was reactivated in 2015. In December 2021, the family was given a final eviction notice.

Last week, authorities informed the Salems that they have until the beginning March to leave the house. 

Currently, 37 Palestinian families live in Sheikh Jarrah, six of them facing imminent eviction. Since 2020, Israeli courts have ordered the eviction of 13 Palestinian families from Sheikh Jarrah.

This article is available in French on Middle East Eye French edition.

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