Sheikh Jarrah: Israel’s Supreme Court postpones hearing on expulsion of Palestinians

Activists hold a banner saying 'We are with you Sheikh Jarrah' in Arabic and Hebrew in East Jerusalem (AFP)

Middle East Eye  /  June 16, 2021

The postponement comes in the wake of an anti-Palestinian march in Jerusalem, testing the fragile ceasefire between Israel and Hamas.

Israel’s Supreme Court suspended a hearing on Wednesday for the second time regarding the expulsion of four Palestinian families from their homes in occupied East Jerusalem’s Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood, a day after an anti-Palestinian march by Jewish nationalists in Jerusalem’s Old City. 

The court agreed to defer the hearing for at least 30 days, after Israeli Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit had requested a postponement to review materials in the case. 

Mandelblit had previously informed the Supreme Court that he would not get involved, with members of his office saying the case of the Palestinian families was too weak and that his legal opinion would be unable to prevent them from being expropriated.

The planned forced expulsion of the families in Sheikh Jarrah provoked an international outcry in May, leading to mass protests across Israel and the occupied territories and sparking off an 11-day conflict between Israeli forces and the Hamas movement in the besieged Gaza Strip that left hundreds dead.

Protests have continued in Sheikh Jarrah since, amid reports of the widespread arrests of Palestinians.

‘Flag March’ held after delays

The court postponement comes after the so-called Flag March took place on Tuesday, over a month after it was first cancelled amid a violent Israeli crackdown on Palestinians at al-Aqsa Mosque and in protests against the Sheikh Jarrah evictions. 

The Flag March is usually held on the occasion of Jerusalem Day, which marks Israel’s capture and subsequent occupation of East Jerusalem in the 1967 Middle East war, in violation of international law.

More than a thousand Israelis waving national flags gathered at Damascus Gate at the start of the march, singing anthems of the settler movement. Videos posted on social media showed Israelis waving flags and chanting “Death to Arabs”.

Some hoisted far-right lawmaker Itamar Ben-Gvir and Bezalel Smotrich, leader of the far-right Religious Zionism faction, on their shoulders.

Israeli police arrested Palestinians in Jerusalem ahead of the march, while the Palestinian Red Crescent said 27 people were wounded during confrontations with Israeli forces around the Old City.

Meanwhile, the Israeli army launched air strikes on the Gaza Strip early on Wednesday, after several incendiary balloons were reportedly launched from the besieged Palestinian enclave in the wake of the march.

Wednesday’s air strikes mark the first major flare-up since a fragile ceasefire on 21 May ended Israel’s 11-day assault on the territory, which killed 248 Palestinians, including 66 children.

Twelve people in Israel were also killed by rockets fired from the enclave.