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Top Israeli court suspends evictions in flashpoint Jerusalem district

Children are seen as activists gather for a demonstration to protest against the eviction of Palestinian families from their homes and illegal settlements in Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood, East Jerusalem on 11 February 2022. [Mostafa Alkharouf - Anadolu Agency]
Children are seen as activists gather for a demonstration to protest against the eviction of Palestinian families from their homes and illegal settlements in Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood, East Jerusalem on 11 February 2022 [Mostafa Alkharouf/Anadolu Agency]

Israel's top court halted, on Tuesday, the planned evictions of four Palestinian families from a flashpoint East Jerusalem neighbourhood, pending clarification of claims on their homes, Reuters reports.

The Palestinians had contested a lower court ruling in favour of settlers who say the families are living on land that used to belong to Jews in territory Israel captured in a 1967 war and later annexed in a move not recognised internationally.

The families question the legitimacy of the claimants' documents, and their struggle to stay – and confrontations with settlers and police – have turned the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood into a symbol of the Palestinian struggle for statehood.

The Supreme Court ruled that the families would be accorded protected tenant status until Israel's Justice Ministry decides who has rights to the homes. No timeline was given for that, but the ruling suggested it could take years: It ordered each family to pay an annual symbolic sum in rent into an escrow account.

Justice Ministry responsibility for resolving the matter would involve the government of Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, whose coalition includes an Arab Islamist party and was formed after Sheikh Jarrah tensions helped ignite a Gaza war last May.

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