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EU Condemns Israel For Returning Property to Owners, Evicting Squatters

Beit Hanina Jewish properties

The European Union on Saturday condemned the eviction of Arab squatters from a house in Beit Hanina on Wednesday, despite an eight-year court case proving that the land they occupied belonged to Jews.

The EU missions in Jerusalem and Ramallah issued a statement on Saturday in which they “condemn the eviction of the Natche family from their home in the east Jerusalem neighborhood of Beit Hanina”.

They also stated that they were “deeply concerned by the plans to build a new settlement in the midst of this traditional Palestinian neighborhood.”

The statement follows condemnations of the eviction issued by UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for the Occupied Palestinian Territory Maxwell Gaylard.  “Evictions of Palestinians from their homes and properties in occupied territory contravene international law, including the Fourth Geneva Convention, and should cease,” Gaylard said in a public statement.

The EU’s stance on the ownership of the property comes in contrast to the finding of the courts that the land and two buildings in which the Natche family lived were purchased 35 years ago by a Jew and were also owned by Jewish residents prior to the founding of the state of Israel in 1948.

The repossession of the property was coordinated by Israeli police and overseen by the Israel Land Fund, which will work to develop the property into apartments for Jewish residents.

Squatter Khaled Natche refused to leave the property voluntarily, despite a promise by the Israel Land Fund to waive NIS 250,000 in damages the court ordered paid to the organization if they would evacuate on their own.  Natche’s brother, who lived next door to him in the second of the two illegally occupied buildings, heeded the court order and left the premises a few weeks ago.

Despite his refusal, Khaled Natche and his family were removed from the dwelling on Wednesday, with their belongings removed into a moving truck for transportation.  No violence took place.

The Beit Hanina properties sit on 1.5 acres of land just a quarter of a mile from the Jerusalem light rail.

Now that the property has returned to its owners, the Israel Land Fund will be charged with developing a 50-apartment complex called Nof Shmuel, named for its view on the tomb of the Prophet Samuel.  The project has already been approved by the Jerusalem municipality and the Interior Ministry, and is awaiting construction permits, according to Israel Land Fund president Aryeh King.

About the Author: Malkah Fleisher is a graduate of Cardozo Law School in New York City. She is an editor/staff writer at JewishPress.com and co-hosts a weekly Israeli FM radio show. Malkah lives with her husband and two children on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem.


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