Displacement of Sheikh Jarrah Palestinians by Jewish settlers might be war crime warns UN chief

An Israeli court is to decide the fate of Palestinians facing eviction in East Jerusalem in a case which has become the focus of international attention, The BBC reports.

The long-awaited hearing concerns four of more than 70 families appealing against an order to leave their homes in Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood.

Lower courts have ruled the land where they have lived for decades historically belongs to Jewish owners.

After days of clashes between Israeli police and Palestinians protesting against the threatened evictions, Hamas, the militant Palestinian group which runs the Gaza Strip, fired rockets towards Jerusalem in what it said was in part a response to Israeli "harassment" in Sheikh Jarrah.

In 11 days of hostilities which followed, at least 256 people were killed in Gaza, according to the UN, and 13 people were killed in Israel. The fighting ended in a ceasefire.

The United Nations' human rights chief has called on Israel not to carry out any evictions in Sheikh Jarrah, warning the displacement of Palestinians there by Jewish settlers might be a war crime under international law.

Israel occupied East Jerusalem in the 1967 Middle East war and in effect annexed it later on. It does not regard the East as occupied territory but rather views the whole of the city as its capital - a claim not recognised by most of the international community.

Israel says the issue of Sheikh Jarrah is not a matter for the state but a private property dispute subject to the decisions of the courts.

Monday's hearing in the High Court is the culmination of nearly 30 years of legal proceedings, which began when the land's registered Jewish owners sought to evict the Palestinian residents for non-payment of rent.

The Palestinians claimed they were the rightful owners of the property, which they said had been guaranteed them by Jordan which had settled the families there after it occupied the area in 1948.

The Palestinians' claim was rejected by a Jerusalem court in 2020 and the eviction order upheld.

Palestinians see the case as part of a wider move by Israeli settlers to take over Palestinian homes in East Jerusalem, which Palestinians claim as the capital of a hoped-for independent state.

In 2003, rights to the land where they live in Sheikh Jarrah were bought by a Jewish organisation which plans to develop the area for Jewish settlement.

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