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Israel-Palestine: Sheikh Jarrah expulsions likely after attorney general declines to intervene

Avichai Mandelblit tells Israel's Supreme Court his legal opinion would be unable to prevent removal of Palestinian families
Israeli activists protest against the expulsion of Palestinians from their homes to make way for Jewish settlers in the annexed East Jerusalem neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah, 28 May 2021 (AFP)

The forced displacement of Palestinian residents of Jerusalem's Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood looks likely to go ahead after the Israeli attorney general said he would not be intervening in the issue.

Avichai Mandelblit informed Israel's Supreme Court on Monday that he would not get involved, with officials in his office saying the case of the Palestinian families was too weak and that his legal opinion would be unable to prevent them from being removed.

The Supreme Court had last month ordered Mandelbit to submit his legal opinion on the threatened evictions, with the State Prosecutor's Office asking the court to delay its decision until Mandelblit had announced his position, with an 8 June deadline.

Mandelblit's decision not to offer an opinion means the court will not be expected to wait on any more material before making its decision.

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The threat to the families in Sheikh Jarrah provoked international outcry last month and led to mass protests across Israel and the occupied territories, sparking off a conflict in Gaza that left hundreds dead.

Protests have continued following the declaration of a ceasefire in Gaza, while there have been reports of widespread arrests of Palestinian activists.

Arrests

On Sunday, Israeli security forces arrested the outspoken activist and journalist Muna al-Kurd from her home in Sheikh Jarrah but later released her after hours of questioning.

Her brother, Mohammed al-Kurd, also turned himself in hours after her arrest, according to footage posted online. He was finally released late on Sunday evening.

The historic Sheikh Jarrah district is inhabited by descendants of Palestinian refugees who were expelled from their towns and villages by the Zionist militias during the Palestinian Nakba (Catastrophe) of 1948. 

At least 13 families have been ordered to leave their homes in Sheikh Jarrah since May, including 58 people facing the threat of expulsion from their homes where they have lived for generations.

In October 2020, an Israeli court ruled in favour of Israeli settlers who claimed that eight Palestinian families in Sheikh Jarrah were living on land that used to belong to Jews.

Palestinians appealed against the decision at Israel's Supreme Court, and the evictions are currently on hold.

On Twitter, Israel's anti-occupation movement Peace Now said that Mandelblit's decision meant the government was "ridding itself of responsibility in matters of discriminatory laws and dispossessing hundreds of Palestinians".