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Elders: Evicted Palestinians should return home

A group of elder statesmen and former world leaders on Thursday visited a family evicted by Israeli police from their house in east Jerusalem and told them to "not give up hope" of one day being able to return to their home.
/ Source: The Associated Press

A group of elder statesmen and former world leaders on Thursday visited a family evicted by Israeli police from their house in east Jerusalem and told them to "not give up hope" of one day being able to return to their home.

The dignitaries, including Nobel Peace Prize laureates Jimmy Carter and Archbishop Desmond Tutu, visited 17 members of an Arab family forced out after the Israeli Supreme Court ruled their house belongs to Jews, who took their place.

The group, called "The Elders," expressed hoped Israel would reverse its action.

"It's a political issue. I don't think there is any doubt about that. It's an attempt by Israel to take over east Jerusalem, which is part of Palestine," said Carter.

Israel captured east Jerusalem in the 1967 war and annexed it, a move not recognized by the international community. Palestinians want it as a capital for a future state, and the issue is a major sticking point in peace talks.

Sharihan Hannoun, 20, was camped out across the street from the house along with other members of the evicted family.

"We have no answers from anyone. There is no help for us. We hope the international community will help us, will know the answer," said Hannoun, a college student.

Members of the Elders brought baskets of food for the nightly dinner that breaks the fast during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan.

Tutu said the scene was reminiscent of apartheid in South Africa.

"And now freedom has come to South Africa, and we want to say to you that justice will prevail in your own situation as it has prevailed in other situations. So do not give up hope that you will be able to live securely in your homeland," Tutu said.

The group winds up its four-day trip to Israel and the West Bank on Friday.

Other members of The Elders delegation are Ela Bhatt, a women's rights activist from India, former Irish President Mary Robinson and former Norwegian Prime Minister Gro Harlem Brundtland. The group was joined by tycoon Richard Branson, who originated the idea of forming The Elders group, and former eBay President Jeff Skoll.