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JERUSALEM: Jewish settlers occupy Palestinian house in the Old City

July 30, 2010 |  7:04 am

One night before the Arab League met in Cairo on Thursday, where Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said he could not return to direct negotiations with Israel because of continuing Jewish settlement activities in Jerusalem, Jewish settlers seized a building in the Muslim Quarter of the Old City.

While most of the 40 Palestinian residents of the building were attending a wedding celebration, a group of settlers guarded by Israeli police broke down doors inside the two-floor building and moved into the fully furnished rooms.

Only one member of the Qirrish family, longtime inhabitants of the site, was in his room and was not evicted. The elderly man telephoned the rest of his family and told them what had occurred. The family rushed back to find the police blocking the entrance. Family members spent the night sitting on chairs outside the building, waiting to seek legal help in the morning.

The building had been purchased by the Jewish settler group Ateret Cohanim, a religious organization whose agenda is settling Jews inside the Muslim Quarter of Jerusalem, from its original Palestinian owners, who moved to the U.S. in the late 1970s. The new owners soon attempted to evict the Qirrish family, who contested the eviction in court and won an order allowing them to remain while paying rent to Ateret Cohanim.

The settler group attempted a second time, in 2000, to get a court eviction order after older members of the Qirrish family had died.

The Qirrish descendants who continued to live in the same building again contested the eviction; the court ruled in their favor. Since then, the family had been residing in the house, said Munnawar Qirrish. “I have been living in this house for 42 years,” she said while waiting for the police to allow her to reenter the building.

The day after the home was seized, a magistrate court ordered that residents be allowed to return to the building. But that did not occur immediately, and family members continued to wait outside the building Thursday.

“My husband is 67 years old, and he needs his medicine, which is inside the house," Munnawar Qirrish said. "I cannot even enter the house to get the medicine. All my personal belongings are inside and I do not know what the settlers are doing to them. I do not know if they are sleeping in my bed or what they are doing inside.”

-- Maher Abukhater in Jerusalem

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