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Israel evicts Palestinian family from Jerusalem home claimed by Jewish tenants

Israeli police officers evict a Palestinian member of the Shamasneh family in east Jerusalem yesterday. Pictures by Mahmoud Illean, Associated Press 

Israeli police have evicted a Palestinian family from their home in east Jerusalem to make way for new Jewish tenants who claimed ownership.

Municipal officials backed by armed police enforced a court order to remove the six-member Shamasneh family from a home claimed by heirs of a Jewish family forced to abandon it in 1948 when it came under Jordanian control.

Israel took control of the area after the 1967 war and continued existing rental arrangements with Arab tenants, but a law allowing Jews to reclaim former homes or repurchase them have set up such conflicts.

The armed officers escorted the Shamasnehs out of the home, with the elderly Ayoub Shamasneh carried out by his relatives.

Mr Shamasneh, 79, said his legal case was still pending. "How can they do this to us?" he said.

His wife Fahima, 75, called it "pure injustice" that after more than 50 years in the house they "throw us out in the street".

Palestinians claim the evictions aim to increase east Jerusalem's Jewish population and change the area's demography, making it harder to divide the city in any eventual peace deal. Israel says it is merely enforcing the law.

Shortly after the eviction, Jewish settlers entered the house accompanied by a private security guard. An Israeli flag hung in the entrance to the kitchen.

Yonatan Yosef, a spokesman for the Jewish residents of the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood in east Jerusalem, said he was pleased to see another home "redeemed".

"Another house in the Land of Israel, another house in Jerusalem, close to the Western Wall, close to the Old City, close to the Temple Mount, which is the heart of the people of Israel," he said.

"We hope that all the houses in this neighbourhood ... will return to Jewish hands."

Israel captured east Jerusalem, the Gaza Strip and the West Bank in the 1967 Middle East war. The Palestinians claim those territories for their hoped-for state.

Also on Tuesday, Israel's Shin Bet security service said it had arrested a senior Palestinian security official for inciting violence on his Facebook page.

It said Muhammad al-Sawiti posted a picture of Nazi leader Adolf Hitler and Holocaust mastermind Adolf Eichmann, called for attacks against Jews and praised those who had carried them out.

Overnight, Israeli troops shut down a printing shop in Ramallah it accused of producing "inciting and terror-related material". Ali Obedat, the shop's owner, denied the charge.

An Israeli human rights group warned the country's leaders that reported plans to demolish two Palestinian communities in the Israeli-controlled West Bank would constitute a war crime for which they would bear personal liability.

B'Tselem said it was trying to "stop the commission of such a crime" with its written warning to prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, defence minister Avigdor Lieberman and others.

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