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Sheikh Jarrah: Israel Supreme Court postpones decision on evictions

Tensions have been running high in East Jerusalem as Palestinian families vow not to leave their homes
A Palestinian schoolgirl walks past a house decorated with the Star of David and an Israeli flag in the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood of occupied east Jerusalem on 5 May (AFP)

The Israeli Supreme Court postponed on Thursday its ruling on the expropriation of several Palestinian families from the occupied East Jerusalem neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah, amid high tensions in the city.

The court said it would hold another hearing in the case on Monday 10 May.

While the East Jerusalem neighbourhood has frequently launched protests over Israel's decades-long eviction campaign, demonstrations intensified this week after Israel’s Supreme Court ordered that the Iskafi, Kurd, Jaouni, and Qasim families - consisting of 30 adults and 10 children - evacuate their homes by Thursday.

On Sunday, the Supreme Court had requested that the Palestinian families at risk of eviction reach an agreement with the Israeli settlers laying claim to their homes.

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However, the Palestinian families reiterated on Thursday that they rejected any deal with the settlers, considering that it would amount to a recognition of the validity of their demands.

Since Israel seized East Jerusalem in the 1967 war, Israeli settler organisations have claimed ownership of the land in Sheikh Jarrah and have filed multiple successful lawsuits to evict Palestinians from the neighbourhood since 1972. 

Since the start of last year, Israeli courts have ordered the eviction of 13 Palestinian families in Sheikh Jarrah, a residential area less than a kilometre away from the walls of the Old City of Jerusalem.

The latest evictions come as Jerusalem has seen heightened tensions in recent weeks, with far-right Israelis staging marches, calling for "Death to Arabs" amid longstanding efforts by Israeli authorities to expand settlements - which are widely considered illegal under international law - in East Jerusalem.

Around the time the Supreme Court announced that a new hearing would take place, Palestinian Jerusalemites reported on social media that Israeli protesters had marched on the predominantly Palestinian Salaheddine Street throwing stones at Palestinian cars.

Tor Wennesland, UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, expressed his anxiety over growing tensions surrounding Sheikh Jarrah.

"The latest developments related to the eviction of Palestine refugee families in Sheikh Jarrah and other neighborhoods in occupied East Jerusalem are also very worrying. I urge Israel to cease demolitions and evictions, in line with its obligations under international humanitarian law," he said.

"I call on political, religious and community leaders on all sides to stand firmly against violence, incitement and inflammatory rhetoric. If unaddressed, the situation could spiral out of control.”