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Israeli police tear down the home of the Palestinian family after a long hiatus

JERUSALEM - Israeli police demolished the home of a Palestinian family in East Jerusalem on Wednesday after a high-profile fight that saw family members take to the roof in protest.

An "eviction order of illegal buildings" was carried out in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood, Israeli police said in a statement, adding that the land will be used to build a school for children with special needs.

The family's lawyer said the demolition was illegal.

Mahmoud Salhiyeh, 50, who lived in the house with his wife and children, along with another house where his sister and her five children lived, went on the roof Monday and threatened to burn the house down by igniting a gas canister, instead of hand it over to the authorities.

Israeli forces escort a man on crutches away from the ruins of a Palestinian house they demolished in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood on Wednesday. Ahmad Gharabli / AFP - Getty Images

"I want to blow myself up, with the house, with the kids, with everything," he told NBC News by phone as he stood on the roof with others Monday. Eventually he came down.

An excavator came to level the property early Wednesday. NBC News saw personal items such as children's books and school bags, family photos, clothes and shoes strewn in the rubble. Israeli security forces at the scene prevented the family from picking up anything.

Police said the postponement was approved by several courts, including the Jerusalem District Court, and that the order was only issued in 2017.

"Family members living in the illegal buildings were given countless opportunities to hand over the land with consent, but unfortunately they refused to do so, even after meetings and repeated dialogue attempts by the Jerusalem municipality," a police spokesman said in a statement. .

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The municipality of Jerusalem says that 18 classrooms, 6 kindergartens, sports fields and leisure facilities will be built on the ground and that the school will be open to the local Arab community. Authorities accused the family of building on the site illegally.

Members of the Salhiya family are protesting on Tuesday, ahead of their expulsion by Israeli police and the Jerusalem municipality.Ahmad Gharabli / AFP - Getty Images

However, Waleed Abu Tayeh, the Salhiyah family's lawyer, said the order was illegal and went beyond what had been agreed in court.

"Mahmood was willing to throw his home out, but they demolished his house even though they have a deportation order, not a demolition. This is illegal," he said in a statement Wednesday.

Tayeh also said authorities tore down Mahmoud Salhiyeh's sister's house, which was not covered by the order.

Fleur Hassan Nahoum, Jerusalem's deputy mayor, however, said the order was both expulsion and demolition. She added that the police action at Salhiyeh's sister's house was in line with the court order.

NBC News has contacted Israeli police and Jerusalem Municipality about these allegations.

A member of the Israeli forces stands at the ruins of a Palestinian house that they demolished in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood on Wednesday. Menahem Kahana / AFP - Getty Images

Dozens of longtime Palestinian residents of Sheikh Jarrah are fighting against efforts by Jewish settlers to evict them from their homes in an area that has been a frequent place of unrest in recent years.

The case, which has been in the Israeli Supreme Court for several months, has attracted global attention and led to last year's Israeli-Palestinian violence.

The Salhiyah family says they bought the property before 1967, when Israel conquered eastern Jerusalem, while the state has claimed in court that the family has no rights to the property.

Israel conquered East Jerusalem along with the West Bank and Gaza Strip in the Middle East War in 1967. It later annexed the eastern half of the city - home to most of Jerusalem's Palestinian population - in a move not recognized by most of the international community. . Palestinians seek East Jerusalem as the capital of a future state.

Lawahez Jabari reported from Jerusalem and Patrick Smith from London.

Paul Goldman the contribution.

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