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PALESTINIANS facing eviction from their homes in occupied East Jerusalem have until Thursday to reach agreement with Israeli settlers who want to take over their property following a court ruling on Sunday.
Six families in the Sheikh Jarrah district of the city had previously been given a deadline of May 2 to leave their homes after an Israeli court ruled that they were not the legal owners of the homes they have lived in since the 1950s.
The Jerusalem District Court denied an appeal in March on the grounds that the residents had not paid the required rent for years and had not disproved the claims of Israelis to the property.
Sheikh Jarrah is home to 28 Palestinian families who were forced out of their original homes on the creation of the State of Israel in 1948, an event known as the Nakba.
Under a 1956 agreement between the UN and Jordan, which at that time administered East Jerusalem, the families were to receive ownership titles after three years.
Jordan has since provided original documentation, but this has not been accepted as proof that the homes belong to the Palestinian residents.
Campaigners have slammed the Israeli court decisions, which they say are based on highly dubious claims to ownership of land in Sheikh Jarrah by Jewish settler groups, as “ethnic cleansing” of Palestinians.
Resident Mohammed El-Kurd said: “They aren’t evicting us from our homes, they are evicting us from humanity.”
Israel has forcibly evicted many Palestinians from their homes in Sheikh Jarrah and other districts of the city — diminishing Jerusalem’s Arab population to a small minority.
Hamas, which governs the besieged Gaza Strip, said the planned expulsions were “dangerous, racist behaviour.”
It has called on the Arab residents of Jerusalem, Israel and the occupied West Bank to march to Sheikh Jarrah and create “human shields of resistance” to prevent the families being forced out of their homes.
“We warn the zionist occupation of any follies that may harm our people in Jerusalem and Sheikh Jarrah, and we hold it responsible,” a Hamas statement said.
Sheik Jarrah residents have called on the international community for support to stop the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians, with lawyer Hussein Abu Hussein warning that it was unlikely the families would reach agreement with the settlers.
Forced evictions can be deemed a war crime under international law. Sheikh Jarrah is one of the cases being investigated by the International Criminal Court.
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