Palestinian family speaks of pain of eviction

A Palestinian family whose home was torn down by Israeli authorities this week in the flashpoint East Jerusalem area of Sheikh Jarrah have spoken of their ordeal.

Israeli police evicted the Salhiyeh family before dawn on Wednesday (January 19). Then a bulldozer tore the house down. Activists and family had maintained a vigil there.

Sheikh Jarrah has become an emblem; witness to clashes between Israeli settlers and Palestinian families threatened by eviction.

Days earlier, Mahmoud Salhiyeh surrounded himself with gas canisters on the roof of the house, threatening to blow it up.

During the eviction, Mahmoud says, he was terrified the police would hurt his children.

"At 2am, my son woke me up and said that the army were entering the house. I couldn't leave the room, they came in and arrested me. They stepped on my back and the officer said: "I told you I'd come and evict you and I'll make you leave your house like a dog, barefoot." He stepped on my back and told me: "Put your head down." I told him I never put my head down."

Nine-year-old Aya worries about the cats. They were inside when they demolished the house, she says.

No, they ran away, for sure, her father tells her.

Yasmeen is 19. She managed to save some childhood toys. 'They hold my memories,' she says.

"My heart is broken. I don't know how to express myself. The house that I was raised in is now torn down. Everything in the house is gone. The feeling is so hard, to see my father's hard work of 25 years demolished. Our memories, my father's heritage on this land, everything is gone."

Jerusalem authorities have expropriated the plot on which the house stood, in an area of the city Israel occupied in 1967 and later annexed.

They and the police said the family were given 'countless opportunities" to hand over the land after an evacuation order was served in 2017.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas called Wednesday's demolition a "war crime" and urged Washington to compel Israel, quote, "to stop the policy of ethnic cleansing against the Palestinian people".

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