Israel's top court delays decision on Sheikh Jarrah evictions

Palestinian residents of the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood attend a hearing at Israel's supreme court in occupied Jerusalem on August 2, 2021. (Photo: AFP)
Palestinian residents of the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood attend a hearing at Israel's supreme court in occupied Jerusalem on August 2, 2021. (Photo: AFP)
OCCUPIED JERUSALEM — Israel delayed a decision Monday in the case of Palestinians facing expulsion by Israeli settlers in occupied East Jerusalem, an issue that exploded into armed conflict in May.اضافة اعلان

Palestinians said the offer was made that they remain in their properties in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood as "protected tenants" who would recognize Israeli ownership of the homes and pay a symbolic annual rent, but they refused.

"They placed a lot of pressure on us to reach an agreement with the Israeli settlers in which we would be renting from the settler organizations," said Muhammad Al-Kurd, from one of four Palestinian families at the heart of the case.

"Of course, this is rejected," he said.

Justice Isaac Amit called for further documentation and said, "we will publish a decision later", but without setting a date.

Monday's hearing was part of a years-long legal battle waged by Jewish Israeli organizations trying to reclaim property owned by Jews in occupied east Jerusalem prior to 1948.

Palestinians say Jordan granted them homes on the property after they were expelled from towns that were occupied by Israel.

Lawyer Sami Irshid, representing the Palestinians, insisted on Monday that his clients would reject the Jewish Israeli claims in any arrangement.

"We are willing to be listed as protected tenants while retaining our rights," he said in court. "We will request recognition of the property rights the government of Jordan gave us."

Ilan Shemer, representing the Israelis, said: "This arrangement will be an empty arrangement."

The case has become an international cause, with dozens of people demonstrating outside the court on Monday.

11-day Gaza war
Clashes in May over possible Sheikh Jarrah evictions spread to Jerusalem's Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, sparking an Israeli crackdown that escalated into an 11-day war between Israeli forces and Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.

The families in Monday's case appealed to the supreme court after two lower courts ruled that under Israeli property law, the homes in question belonged to the Jewish owners who purchased the plots before 1948.

In 1956, when east Jerusalem was under Jordanian control, Amman leased plots of land to families in Sheikh Jarrah, and the UN agency for Palestinian refugees built homes for them.

Jordan promised to register the properties in their names but did not complete the process before Israel captured east Jerusalem in 1967 and annexed it in a move never recognized by the international community.

In 1970, Israel enacted a law under which Jews could reclaim land in east Jerusalem they lost in 1948, even if Palestinians by then already lived on it.

No such option exists for Palestinians who lost homes or land.

Jerusalem deputy mayor Arieh King, who supports the Jewish Israeli claims in the neighborhood, decried the court's delay.

"As long as the court drags this on, there is more room for Arabs to make riots," King told AFP.

Instead, he said the court should rule the land is Jewish "and end of story".

The Palestinians' lawyer Irshid told AFP after the hearing "there is reason for optimism".

Israeli anti-settlement group Ir Amim says that more than 1,000 Palestinians are at risk of losing their homes to Jewish settler groups and individuals in Sheikh Jarrah and the Silwan neighborhood of occupied east Jerusalem.

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