JERUSALEM – Jewish settlers forced their way into a disputed house in east Jerusalem on Tuesday, using hired guards to evict an elderly Palestinian woman and tossing the other residents' belongings into the rain-swept yard.
The settlers displayed what they said was a court order granting them ownership of the simple one-story building. Human rights groups said the takeover was a push by Jewish settlers to expand their presence in east Jerusalem.
Sovereignty over the traditionally Arab sector is one of the most explosive issues in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Israel captured the area in the 1967 Mideast war and immediately annexed it — a move recognized by no other country. The Palestinians consider east Jerusalem the capital of their hoped-for state.
Palestinians and their Israeli supporters clashed with the Jewish settlers after they took over the building, and police intervened to restore calm, arresting one of the Israeli protesters, a police spokesman said.
Similar clashes have broken out over nearby buildings in recent months.
"It's clear to me that this is another case of settlers taking the law into their own hands," said Rabbi Yehiel Grenimann of Rabbis for Human Rights, an Israeli group that opposes Palestinian home evictions and demolitions.
"It's just another step-by-step way of pushing them (the Palestinians) out," he said.
Grenimann said 29 members of the al-Kurd family lived in the house evicted on Tuesday. Some of them had settled there after they were evicted from another house in the same neighborhood, following the Israeli Supreme Court's decision to uphold the settlers' claim to the ownership of that building.
Conflicting claims and religious tensions make east Jerusalem — which includes the Old City, with key holy sites revered by Muslims, Jews and Christians — a frequent flashpoint.
Palestinians want to make it their future capital, while Israel insists on retaining control of the whole city.
Israel has built homes for more than 180,000 Jews in new east Jerusalem neighborhoods since the 1967 annexation.
The U.S. and others have criticized Israeli settlement in east Jerusalem and urged Israel to stop evicting Palestinians and demolishing their homes there, saying such moves disrupt peace efforts.