JERUSALEM — Jewish nationalists and Palestinians clashed in an East Jerusalem neighborhood on Tuesday after the Israelis took over a house by court order in a predominantly Arab area. The confrontation further strained tensions in this contested city, where competing Israeli and Palestinian claims have become a sticking point in the Obama administration’s efforts to restart peace talks.
The house at the center of Tuesday’s flare-up is located in Sheik Jarrah, a leafy district just north of the Old City, where three Palestinian families have been evicted from other houses in the last year after losing a lengthy legal battle in the High Court and lower district and magistrates courts.
A Jewish association won its claim to historical ownership of the land in question, and has plans to build a large Jewish housing complex there. The Palestinians fear that the Jewish presence in Sheik Jarrah is part of a larger project to cement Israeli control of the eastern part of the city and to push Palestinian residents out.
The latest Jewish residents to move into the area were escorted by the police and private security guards and immediately removed furniture from the property, which was built by a Palestinian family headed by Refka al-Kurd, 87.
The small, one-story structure was built about 10 years ago as an extension of the Kurds’ original home, but it was unoccupied, having been sealed by the authorities after it was determined to have been constructed without the proper permits.
“The authorities took our keys to the property because we built it without permits,” said Nabil al-Kurd, 66, who lives in the original house. “But it seems the settlers can live here without permits because they are the sons of God,” he said bitterly, referring to the Jewish newcomers.
Shmulik Ben-Ruby, the spokesman for the Jerusalem police, said his force acted in line with the court decision that determined that the property “is owned by Jews.”