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Palestinian teen bears scar of eviction battle in East Jerusalem

Palestinian teen bears scar of eviction battle in East Jerusalem
Jana Kiswani, 16, looks on as she rests at home after she was injured when an Israeli police officer shot her in the back with a rubber-coated bullet as she was entering her home in the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood of East Jerusalem, May 27, 2021. Picture taken May 27, 2021. REUTERS/Ammar Awad

Jana Kiswani, a 16-year-old Palestinian, was entering her home in the East Jerusalem neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah when an Israeli police officer shot her in the back with a sponge-tipped bullet, her family said.

Her spine fractured, the teen bears testimony to the tensions and violence surrounding an Israeli court-ordered eviction of eight Palestinian families from homes claimed by Jewish settlers.

Last month, the Sheikh Jarrah dispute helped to trigger 11 days of intense fighting between Israel and Gaza’s ruling Hamas militant group, and frequent protests and confrontations with Israeli police in the neighbourhood have kept tensions high.

Clashes were under way in Sheikh Jarrah on May 18 when Kiswani was shot. She said she was obeying police orders to go inside when the police officer fired.

“I didn’t do anything. I didn’t pick up a rock, or even say a word to him or argue with him or anything, he had no right to shoot me,” Kiswani told Reuters. “If it’s not safe in my own home, where is it safe?”

Asked about Kiswani’s shooting, an Israeli police spokesperson did not comment directly on the incident but said some events that day were under investigation. Israel’s Kan public broadcaster said the police officer who fired at her was suspended.

CCTV footage from the teenager’s home showed her falling to the ground in the courtyard and a stun grenade exploding as her family rushed to her aid.

The family said the long-term effect of her injuries was still unclear. The girl is confined to bed, taking painkillers and sitting up, and will begin physiotherapy soon.

In October, an Israeli district court ruled in favour of Jewish settler claims that the land on which the eight families are living used to belong to Jews, based on documents from the 19th century.

The families have asked Israel’s Supreme Court to review the case, with a decision pending on whether it would hear the appeal. Kiswani’s family is not among the group currently facing eviction.

Israel describes the Sheikh Jarrah controversy as a property dispute playing out in the court system and says police are keeping the peace in the face of sometimes violent protests in the neighbourhood.

Israel captured East Jerusalem in a 1967 war, later annexing it in a move not recognised by the international community.

It considers all of Jerusalem its capital. Palestinians want East Jerusalem to be the capital of a state they seek to establish in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip.

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