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Israel braces for weekend violence after spate of shootings and eviction protests

“I don’t know what will happen with us if they kick the families out from the houses,” Yacoub Abu Arafa who is facing eviction.
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Israeli authorities are bracing for more violence over the weekend after a recent spate of shootings and as tensions soar over the threatened eviction of dozens of Palestinians from their homes in east Jerusalem.

Israeli troops shot and killed two Palestinians and seriously wounded a third after they opened fire with makeshift submachine guns on a base in the occupied West Bank on Friday morning, Israel’s police said. No Israelis were injured.

That came two days after Israeli student Yehuda Guetta, 19, died in a hospital from injuries sustained in a drive-by shooting Sunday as he was standing at a bus station near the West Bank city of Nablus. Two other teenagers were wounded in the attack. Israeli forces arrested a Palestinian man in connection with the attack Thursday.

Meanwhile, Saeed Yusuf Muhammad Oudeh, a 16-year-old Palestinian boy, was killed in a village near Nablus on Wednesday.

Image: Jerusalem tension ahead of court case on Palestinians' eviction
Israeli police detain a Palestinian protester amid ongoing tension in a land-ownership dispute in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of East Jerusalem, on Wednesday. Ammar Awad / Reuters

Israel’s military said troops opened fire when they were attacked with firebombs, but Defense for Children International - Palestine, a rights group, said Saeed was not involved in the confrontation. The teenager was shot twice in the back, it said.

Meanwhile, in the east Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah, tensions are high over a long-running legal case involving the homes of four Palestinian families on land claimed by Jewish settlers, set to be heard by Israel’s Supreme Court on Monday.

Palestinian families have lived in the area for decades, but the settler groups claim the land the houses were built on was originally owned by Jewish organizations before 1948, when fighting divided Jerusalem into east and west.

Israel captured east Jerusalem, along with the West Bank and Gaza — territories the Palestinians want for their future state — in the 1967 Arab-Israeli war. Israel annexed east Jerusalem in a move not recognized internationally and views the entire city as its capital.

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But the Palestinians view east Jerusalem — which includes major holy sites for Jews, Christians and Muslims — as their capital, and its fate is one of the most sensitive issues in the conflict.

A law passed by Israel’s parliament in 1970 allows for property previously owned by Jewish people in east Jerusalem to be reclaimed, although Palestinians have no such right to reclaim property in west Jerusalem.

The four Palestinian families in Sheikh Jarrah are facing imminent eviction on the basis of that law, and several attempts at mediation have broken down. Israel’s supreme court is due to hold a hearing Monday and may issue a final eviction order, a ruling that could set a precedent affecting other families.

Yacoub Abu Arafa, 59, said he was born in the house he could be forced to leave and that his family had been fighting in the courts for nearly half a century to hold onto their home.

“We became old and tired,” he told NBC News. “I don’t know what will happen with us if they kick the families out from the houses.”

Palestinians protesting the case have clashed with Israeli police in the city on a nightly basis since the start of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

Activists say the legal battle in Sheikh Jarrah is one part of a systematic effort by settler groups to change the demography of east Jerusalem by displacing Palestinians and moving Israelis to the area.

Rupert Colville, a spokesman for the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights said Friday that the evictions "if ordered and implemented, would violate Israel's obligations under international law.”

"We call on Israel to immediately halt all forced evictions, including those in Sheikh Jarrah, and to cease any activity that would further contribute to a coercive environment and lead to a risk of forcible transfer," he said.

Demonstrators have also clashed with Israeli police over restrictions on outdoor gatherings at the Damascus Gate leading into the Old City.

Sunday night is "Laylat al-Qadr" or the "Night of Destiny," the most sacred in the month of Ramadan, and worshippers will gather for intense nighttime prayers at the Al-Aqsa mosque compound in Jerusalem's Old City, a flashpoint site sacred to both Muslims and Jews, who refer to it as the Temple Mount.

Image: Tension over the possible eviction of several Palestinian families in East Jerusalem's Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood
Protesters express their support for Palestinian families facing Israeli eviction orders in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of East Jerusalem on Tuesday.Abbas Momani / AFP - Getty Images

Jerusalem Day, a national holiday in which Israel celebrates its annexation of east Jerusalem and religious nationalists hold parades and other celebrations in the city, also begins Sunday night.

The two events have coincided in years past, sometimes leading to clashes.

Gaza's ruling Hamas, which is considered a terrorist organization by the U.S. and European Union, has egged on the violence in recent days and Palestinian militants in Gaza have fired rockets in support of the protesters.

Earlier this week, the commander of Hamas' armed wing, Mohammed Deif, released his first public statement in seven years, in which he warned Israel it would pay a "heavy price" if it evicts Palestinians from their homes.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.