Israeli settlers began moving into part of a home in east Jerusalem on Sunday, as police officers enforced a court order requiring the Palestinian family living there to vacate part of it.
The process is the culmination of a years-long battle over the home in the Ras al-Amud neighborhood, which pitted a Palestinian family against Irving Moskowitz, a millionaire and supporter of Israeli settlement in the east of the city.
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Moskowitz argued that he legally bought the property from Jewish organizations that owned the land before the establishment of Israel in 1948.
House divided with barbed wire fence (Photo: Eli Mendelbaum)
But the Palestinian family living in the building, the Hamdallahs, have been there since 1952, and argued that they maintained their rights to the home and surrounding land.
In 2005, an Israeli court ruled that the family could stay in parts of the house constructed before 1989, but handed one room in the building and the land surrounding it to Moskowitz.
Khaled Hamdallah, a member of the family, told AFP that a court had upheld that decision last week.
"There was a court decision last week that said we had to move out of the room and that they could take it over. The police are here and are letting them take it," he said.
An AFP photographer on the scene saw several Israelis accompanied by police take possession of the room, effectively a semi-detached flat with garden around it.
"There are 12 of us who'll have to live in what's left of the house. They do what they want," Hamdallah said.
In the past few years a group led by Moskowitz, a Jewish American tycoon, filed several claims with the goal of evicting the Hamdallah family from the plot. The land was purchased by the Chabad and Wohlin Hasidic yeshivas during the Ottoman period but they lost control of the area in 1948.
The land was taken over by a man who was registered as the owner in the Jordanian Land Registry Bureau and in 1952 it was given over to the Hamdallah family. Over time additional buildings were constructed on the land and connected to one main structure.
In 1967 the yeshivas discovered what happened and filed a claim with the district court, which voided the land registration. In 1990 Moskowitz purchased the land and in 1995 filed a petition for the eviction of the Hamdallah family.
AFP contributed to the report
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