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Page last updated at 18:25 GMT, Sunday, 2 August 2009 19:25 UK

Palestinians evicted in Jerusalem

One of the evicted Palestinian women
Palestinian officials say the families lived in the houses for over 50 years

Israeli police have evicted nine Palestinian families living in two houses in occupied East Jerusalem.

Jewish settlers moved into the houses almost immediately. The US has urged Israel to abandon plans for a building project in the area.

Israel occupied East Jerusalem in 1967 and later annexed it, a move not recognised by the world community.

The evictions have been condemned by the United Nations, the Palestinians and also the UK government.

The US said the evictions were not in keeping with Israel's obligations under the so-called "road map" to resolve the Israel-Palestinian conflict.

'Deplorable'

The operation to evict the 53 Palestinians in the Sheikh Jarrah district of the city was carried out before dawn on Sunday by police clad in black riot gear.

It followed a ruling by Israel's Supreme Court that Jewish families owned the land. Israel wants to build a block of 20 apartments in the area.

Israeli riot police
The police were clad in black riot gear

The evictions were quickly condemned by the United Nations.

"I deplore today's totally unacceptable actions by Israel," the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Robert H Serry said. "These actions are contrary to the provisions of the Geneva Conventions related to occupied territory.

"These actions heighten tensions and undermine international efforts to create conditions for fruitful negotiations to achieve peace," Mr Perry said.

Palestinian negotiator Sayeb Erekat said: "Tonight, while these new settlers from abroad will be accommodating themselves and their belongings in these Palestinian houses, 19 newly homeless children will have nowhere to sleep."

Sovereignty 'unquestionable'

Israel considers a united Jerusalem to be the capital of the state of Israel.

"Our sovereignty over it is unquestionable," Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said last month.

"We cannot accept the idea that Jews will not have the right to live and buy [homes] anywhere in Jerusalem."

The BBC's Tim Franks in Jerusalem says the houses are in what is probably the most contested city on earth and the diplomatic ripples from the evictions will spread.

The UK joined in the condemnation of the evictions. "These actions are incompatible with the Israeli professed desire for peace," the British Consulate in East Jerusalem said. "We urge Israel not to allow the extremists to set the agenda."

There are an estimated 250,000 Palestinians living in East Jerusalem and 200,000 Jews.



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