JERUSALEM — Jewish settlers on Sunday occupied at least two houses in an Arab East Jerusalem neighborhood where Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has vowed to bar a new Jewish settlement, witnesses said.
They said about 15 Palestinians briefly stoned the settlers' cars, smashing the windows of eight vehicles in the neighborhood of Ras al Amud. No one was injured. The stone-throwing stopped when dozens of heavily armed Israeli police arrived.
Settler spokesman Ronn Torossian, 23, said: "We've just taken over a home in Ras al Amud that was legally purchased by Dr. [Irving] Moskowitz [a Miami-based American property developer]. . . . We intend more actions like this."
Netanyahu spokesman David Bar-Illan earlier on Sunday had said Netanyahu would block Moskowitz's plan to build about 70 Jewish homes in the 11,000-strong Arab neighborhood.
Torossian said 50 settlers were taking part in the action.
A Reuters cameraman said he saw settlers in at least two homes in the neighborhood: at a half-built two-room building and a larger two-story house. The buildings were about 110 yards apart and not in sight of each other.
Jerusalem police Cmdr. Yair Yitzhaki said at the scene: "The status quo will continue. The settlers will remain in the house. We are checking the legal ownership."
Palestinian Sufyan Hadyeh, 28, said his family had rented the larger building for the last 10 years.
The Hadyehs had gone out to dinner, he said. They returned to find the settlers in their home, now festooned with Israeli flags and stickers in Hebrew that said: "Jerusalem Is Ours."