Palestinians in Sheikh Jarrah to stay 'for years' after major ruling

Mass protests rocked occupied East Jerusalem last year over plans to evict the residents

Nabil Al Kurd, one of the Palestinian residents facing eviction from the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood. AFP
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Four Palestinian families facing eviction in Jerusalem’s Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood will be able to stay in their homes “for years”, their lawyer said on Tuesday following a major Israeli court ruling.

The residents’ planned expulsion in favour of Israeli settlers led to mass protests last year in occupied East Jerusalem, which were followed by the Gaza war.

After months of wrangling, Israel’s Supreme Court ruled the families can stay in their homes while authorities re-examine the question of land ownership.

“They can stay and stay” for years, lawyer Sami Irsheid told The National.

Each family must pay a nominal annual rent of 2,400 Israeli shekels ($745), which will be held in a trust account.

Mr Irsheid said he was feeling “happy and proud” following the ruling, which comes four months after the residents rejected a deal tabled by judges.

The justices had proposed the Palestinians recognise the plaintiffs’ ownership in exchange for being allowed to stay in their homes for a certain period.

The families were given homes in the 1950s by Jordanian authorities, which governed East Jerusalem until Israeli forces took control of the area in 1967.

The case brought against the residents hangs on a law that allows Jews to reclaim land in East Jerusalem owned before the 1948 establishment of Israel.

Palestinians have no equivalent right to return to properties they fled in the 1948 Arab-Israeli War.

Israel’s lower court ruled in favour of an organisation that said it held deeds to the land in Sheikh Jarrah.

The planned eviction of the Palestinian families by Israeli authorities sparked daily protests last spring.

The rallies coincided with demonstrations in and around East Jerusalem’s Old City, which were met with a crackdown by Israeli security forces.

More than 1,000 Palestinians and dozens of police officers were wounded during the protests, medics and officials said. The violence preceded an 11-day conflict between Israel and Gaza militants.

Fears of renewed clashes have hung over the neighbourhood ever since, particularly over plans to evict another Palestinian family this month.

The step was halted last week by the Jerusalem magistrates court, which temporarily froze the move. An Israeli local council member had brought the case against the family.

More than 230,000 settlers live in East Jerusalem, Israeli NGO Peace Now reported.

The majority of them live in communities built by Israel in recent decades, while about 3,000 have moved into homes in Palestinian neighbourhoods such as Sheikh Jarrah.

Much of the international community views the forced expulsion of Palestinians and the presence of Israeli settlers in East Jerusalem as illegal. Israel disputes this.

Updated: March 01, 2022, 5:31 PM