JERUSALEM - Palestinian residents of a flashpoint east Jerusalem neighborhood held a tense standoff with Israeli authorities on Monday as police came to evict them from a disputed property.
Several residents of a house in Sheikh Jarrah climbed onto the roof of the building with gas tanks and threatened to set them alight if the Jerusalem municipality follows through with the eviction.
One photo showed flames already tearing through a pile of debris on the ground as residents looked down from the roof.
Residents say they purchased the property before 1967, when Israel captured east Jerusalem, while the state has argued in court that the family does not have rights to the property. The Jerusalem Municipality seized the property in 2017 for the purpose of building a special needs school.
A Jerusalem court ruled in favor of the city last year and authorized the eviction. The family appealed and is waiting for a ruling, but the judge did not freeze the eviction order.
The police and city hall issued a joint statement saying that the family was ordered to leave the property a year ago. The property is to be used to build the school, which is to serve Palestinian children in the neighborhood.
Sheikh Jarrah is located in the east Jerusalem neighborhood where dozens of longtime Palestinian residents are fighting attempts to evict them from their homes. That case, which has been in Israel's Supreme Court for months, has attracted global attention and fueled Israeli-Palestinian violence last year.
Palestinians in east Jerusalem tend to live in poor, neglected neighborhoods and struggle to get permits from City Hall. They accuse Israel of trying to push them out of Jerusalem.
Omer Barlev, the Israeli cabinet minister in charge of the police, said the government faced a no-win situation.
He wrote on Twitter that you can't have it both ways - to demand that the municipality act for the welfare of the Arab residents and to oppose the construction of educational institutions for their welfare.
But Ir Amim, an Israeli rights group that follows developments in Jerusalem, said that the city gave up a different plot of land in Sheikh Jarrah that was originally designated for a Palestinian school and authorized the construction of an ultra-Orthodox men's seminary in recent years.
The municipality seems to think it is reasonable and fit to dispose of a Palestinian family for the sake of a school rather than utilizing open land initially allocated for such purposes, it said.
Israel captured east Jerusalem in the 1967 Mideast war, along with the West Bank and Gaza Strip. It later annexed the eastern half of the city — home to most of Jerusalem's Palestinian population — in a move unrecognized by most of the international community. The Palestinians want east Jerusalem to be the capital of a future state.