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Israel condemned over evictions

Protester is removed by police from a demonstration outside the homes 2/8/09
The evictions by Israel sparked protests at the scene

The US has led international condemnation of Israel after it evicted nine Palestinian families living in two houses in occupied East Jerusalem.

Washington said the action was not in keeping with Israel's obligations under the so-called "road map" to resolve the Israel-Palestinian conflict.

Jewish settlers moved into the houses almost immediately.

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

The removal of the 53 people was also condemned by the United Nations, the Palestinians and the UK government.

Senior Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat said he was outraged at the action.

"Israel is once again showing its utter failure to respect international law," he said.

"New settlers from abroad are accommodating themselves and their belongings in the Palestinian houses and 19 newly homeless children will have nowhere to sleep."

'Deplorable'

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

Israel's Supreme Court ordered the eviction, following a complex 37-year legal battle during which Israeli courts upheld a claim that the land is Jewish-owned. Jewish groups want to build homes for settlers in the area.

Settlers after structure at Adei Ad is demolished (20.07.09)

"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."

The UK government said the Israeli action was "incompatible with the Israeli professed desire for peace".

"We urge Israel not to allow the extremists to set the agenda," the British Consulate in East Jerusalem said.

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 UN said the 53 people evicted comprised nine families belonging to the Hanoun and al-Ghawi extended families.

The legal battle over the site has been complex.

Jordan, which occupied the West Bank and East Jerusalem after the creation of Israel in 1948, and the UN housed several Palestinian families on the plot of land.

But Israeli courts have since upheld a Jewish association's claim that the site was owned by Jews before that, and their demand for rent that the Palestinian families have refused to pay.

Palestinian and left-wing Israeli organisations say Palestinians and Israeli-Arabs cannot, in the same way, make effective ownership claims to land dating back to before 1948 through the Israeli court system.

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





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