JERUSALEM, July 29 (JMCC) - Jewish settlers occupied a two-story building in the Old City of Jerusalem
Under police escort, dozens of Israeli settlers from the Ateret Cohanim group entered the building in the Saadiya neighborhood at dawn and took over its 14 apartments.
Palestinians say that the house is owned by the deceased Daoud Suleiman and David Handal, who lives in the United States. Some nine families, approximately 50 people, live in the building as tenants.
The struggle over the building began in 1987, when Ateret Cohanim went to court claiming that it had purchased the building from its owners. Jerusalem personality Faisal Husseini was involved in defending the property from the settlers' claims. Two years ago, the court ruled in the favor of the settler organization, ultimately bringing about Thursday's seizure.
The take-over happened at two in the morning, says Sami Qarsh, one of the building's residents. The family was at a wedding at the Seven Arches Hotel on the Mount of Olives, and was surprised upon its return by the presence of settlers inside the home.
The settlers had already changed the locks on the doors, after tossing the families' furniture into the courtyard.
The Qarsh family's lawyer said that the settlers likely want the tenants to go to court to try to prove that they are the owners of the home. Instead, he said he would try to seek an injunction forcing the settlers to leave while a court ruling is made.
The occupation of the home brings to five the number of homes in this neighborhood -- next to Jerusalem's holy sites -- that have been seized by Israeli settler groups. More than 70 settler sites can be found throughout Jerusalem's Old City.
The move is likely to inflame tensions in Jerusalem, which is under pressure from ongoing settlement
construction in the heart of crowded Palestinian neighborhoods.