Israel's top court ordered Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit to submit a legal opinion within the next two weeks on the eviction case before the court against Palestinian residents of the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah, moving toward a ruling in the high-profile case that sparked a wave of protests and has drawn international attention.
The case was filed by Nahalat Shimon, a company that acquired the interests of Jewish families who lived the neighborhood prior to Israel's establishment in 1948.
Mendelblit's legal opinion is being submitted in connection with a request by three Sheikh Jarrah families who have been ordered evicted from their homes and who are seeking permission from the Supreme Court to hear their appeal, after losing the appeal of their eviction in the Jerusalem District Court.
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Tensions over the case became a flash point in Jerusalem between Jews and Arabs, in Sheikh Jarrah as well as the Temple Mount. Hamas fired rockets at Jerusalem earlier this month purportedly in support of Palestinians in the two areas of the city. That was followed by the recent military confrontation between Israel and Hamas.
About two weeks ago, the State Prosecutor's Office asked the Supreme Court to delay its decision on the request to appeal until Mendelblit decides his position on the case so that he can intervene in the case. The Prosecutor's Office said that the case "also presents sensitivities from other aspects."
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Justice Isaac Amit granted the request by the State Prosecutor's Office on Tuesday and gave Mendelblit until June 8 to submit his legal opinion. Once the attorney general's opinion is submitted, the court will decide how to proceed on the Palestinian residents' request for permission to appeal to the Supreme Court, Amit said.
Silwan eviction plans
In a related development, on Wednesday the Jerusalem District Court held a hearing on appeals filed on behalf of seven Palestinian families from the Batan al-Hawa section of the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan who have also been issued eviction orders.
The judges said they will give their decision "soon." The panel must first decide whether to wait for the Supreme Court to first rule on two appeals in similar cases regarding eviction of Palestinian residents from their homes in Silwan and Sheikh Jarrah.
Dozens of Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem protested in front of the court during the hearing, and two demonstrators were detained. Joint List lawmakers Ahmad Tibi and Osama Saadi also joined the demonstration, which was held despite police blocking the street next to the courthouse.
As in the Sheikh Jarrah cases, the Silwan families live on land that was owned by Jews before 1948. The land is owned by a trust that for roughly the past two decades has been controlled by Ateret Cohanim, a group that has sought to move Jews into the neighborhood.
A number of Palestinian families have already been evicted from their homes in the neighborhood and eviction actions against dozens of others are pending in court. The pending cases relate to 700 residents of Silwan.
The appeal on behalf of the Silwan families follows an eviction order issued against them by the Jerusalem Magistrate's Court on a number of legal grounds. The grounds include the legal status of the land based on Ottoman law, in addition to the historic boundaries of the plot of land and the statute of limitations.
The Silwan residents have asked Attorney General Mendelblit to intervene in this case, too, this time to provide his legal opinion on the decision of the Justice Ministry's Administrator General to transfer the land to those seeking to move Jews into the neighborhood.