The Beit Yehonatan building in East Jerusalem
The Beit Yehonatan building, settled by ultra-nationalist Jews in the heart of East Jerusalem. Photo by Tess Scheflan
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The Jerusalem District Court on Tuesday rejected an appeal to overturn an order to seal off a building in the heart of East Jerusalem in which a handful of Jewish families have settled.

The Jerusalem municipality ordered the contentious Beit Yehonatan building, named for convicted spy Jonathan Pollard, to be sealed off and evacuated as it was constructed without a legal permit.

City officials began gauging the complex in April, nearly nine months after the court ordered its evacuation. The seven-story residential structure was built illegally in the heart of the predominantly Palestinian neighborhood of Silwan by the nationalist association Ateret Cohanim.

Jerusalem legal adviser, Yossi Havilio, had been leading the municipal crackdown on the right-wing tenants who occupy the building, butting heads with Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat, who was hesitant to enforce the evacuation order.

Barkat in February bowed to pressure from legal officials and vowed to uphold the court order to evacuate and seal the building. Prior to that, Barkat managed to have the city's planning and construction committee approve a plan permitting the construction of four floors in the building in order to legalize - at least partially - the seven-story structure.

The mayor defended his campaign to legalize the building saying, among other things, that evacuation could lead to clashes between right-wing activists and Silwan's Arab residents.