Israeli police arrest Palestinian activist: family

Israeli police Sunday arrested a prominent activist at the centre of the movement to publicise the threatened eviction of Palestinians from their homes in Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem, her family told AFP.

The father of Mona el-Kurd, 23, said police apprehended his daughter and took her to a police station for questioning, leaving a summons for her twin brother, Muhammad.

In footage widely shared on social media, Mona el-Kurd was shown handcuffed and taken by officers out of her family’s home in the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood, whose struggle has crystalized Palestinian anger over Israel’s settlement movement.

The duo, whose family is currently under threat of losing their home, have gained more than 180,000 Twitter followers and more than half a million on Instagram for their activism, under the hashtags #SheikhJarrah and #SaveSheikhJarrah, taking their neighbourhood’s plight global. 

Their father, who spoke to AFP in front of the police station in Jerusalem, dubbed his daughter’s arrest part of “an operation to terrorise the parents, because the voice that emerged from the neighbourhood was thanks to its youth.”

He said his son Muhammad had been away teaching in Ramallah but was on his way back to cooperate with the police summons.

The police did not immediately respond to an AFP request for comment.

Under Israeli law, if Jews can prove that their families lived in east Jerusalem before the 1948 Arab-Israeli war that created the state of Israel, they can request the “return” of their property, even if Palestinian families have been living there for decades. 

Palestinians whose ancestors became refugees in the 1948 war have no means to retrieve their homes or land in modern-day Israel.

Israeli right groups Ir Amim says up to 1,000 Palestinians in Sheikh Jarrah and the nearby Silwan district face being displaced.

While Palestinians and their backers see the issue as a microcosm of the wider conflict over land, Jewish settlers and their supporters have labelled it a mere property dispute, to be decided by Israeli courts.

Protests in Sheikh Jarrah spread early last month into the Al-Aqsa mosque compound, sparking a crackdown by Israeli security forces against Palestinians there.

Hamas, the Islamist group that controls the Palestinian enclave of Gaza, responded by launching volleys of rockets towards Israel on May 10, triggering an 11-day war between the Jewish state and Palestinian militants. 

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