Palestinian man threatens to set himself on fire to prevent eviction from Jerusalem home

A Palestinian man has climbed on top of his house and threatened to set himself on fire as his family face eviction, prompting a tense stand-off with Israeli police.

Mohammed Salhiya carried a gas canister up to the roof of his house and vowed to ignite it unless Israel abandoned the eviction process in Sheikh Jarrah, a flashpoint neighbourhood in East Jerusalem.

The Salhiya family’s home has been under threat of eviction since 2017, while the land it sits on has been allocated for a special needs school by Jerusalem’s municipality.

Last year, when a court in Jerusalem approved the eviction, the family appealed and is still awaiting a final ruling. The eviction order itself has not been frozen.  

“We’ve been in this home since the 1950s,” Salhiya family member Abdallah Ikermawi said from the roof, according to AFP news agency.

“We don’t have anywhere to go,” he said in a statement provided by the Sheikh Jarrah Committee organisation, adding that the family was made up of 15 people, including children.

The Salhiyas are among hundreds of Palestinian families facing eviction from Sheikh Jarrah as part of a controversial process which they claim is designed to replace Palestinian residents with Jewish settlers.

Israel disputes this and has sought to play down the tensions over evictions in Sheikh Jarrah as being part of a “private real estate dispute.”

The eviction process in Sheikh Jarrah was a factor in the tensions between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip last May, which erupted into an 11-day conflict.  

Israel claims East Jerusalem –  where the flashpoint neighbourhood is situated – as part of its undivided capital, though this is not recognised by most of the international community.

Many families in Sheikh Jarrah moved there after the war in 1948, when hundreds of thousands of Palestinians fled or were expelled from their homes in what is now the state of Israel.

Also on Monday, Israeli forces shot dead a Palestinian man who tried to stab a soldier at a junction in the West Bank. There were also reports that Hamas had test-launched a series of rockets by firing them into the sea.

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