IDF on alert for Jerusalem violence

EU, UN call for Israel not to evict Palestinians from Sheikh Jarrah homes, as court delays ruling.

An Israeli border policeman scuffles with a Palestinian protester during clashes amid ongoing tension ahead of an upcoming court hearing in an Israeli-Palestinian land-ownership dispute in the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood of East Jerusalem May 3, 2021. (photo credit: REUTERS/AMMAR AWAD)
An Israeli border policeman scuffles with a Palestinian protester during clashes amid ongoing tension ahead of an upcoming court hearing in an Israeli-Palestinian land-ownership dispute in the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood of East Jerusalem May 3, 2021.
(photo credit: REUTERS/AMMAR AWAD)
Israeli security forces have increased their alert level, as a number of flashpoint events centered around Jerusalem are set to take place next week.
Though the IDF had already bolstered its troops for the Muslim month of Ramadan over concern that violence might erupt, a deadly shooting attack and a rare statement threatening Israel by Hamas terror chief Mohamed Deif led the military to prepare for a range of possible scenarios both in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
Incendiary balloons launched from the blockaded coastal enclave resumed in recent days, setting fire to agricultural land in southern Israel.
Jerusalem Day and Laylat al-Qadr, a major event of Ramadan, fall on Sunday evening; Eid al-Fitr is on Wednesday, marking the end of Ramadan; Quds Day, a holiday made up by Iran to express support for Palestinians against Israel, is on Friday; and Nakba Day, on which Palestinians mark the “catastrophe” of Israel’s establishment, is on Saturday.
Those commemorations are compounded by the cancellation of the Palestinian elections and the possible culmination of a longstanding property dispute between Jews and Arabs with the eviction of dozens of Palestinians from their homes in Jerusalem’s Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood, known as Shimon Hatzadik in Hebrew, putting police and the IDF on high alert for clashes and additional attacks.
Deif, head of Hamas’ Izzadin al-Qassam Brigades, warned that should the evictions take place, Israel would “pay a heavy price.”
“This is our final warning,” he said. “If the aggression against our people in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood does not stop immediately, we will not stand idly by and the occupation will pay a heavy price.”
The IDF’s Central Command has been on guard for attacks by Hamas supporters in the West Bank, where the Fatah Party of  Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas risked losing power to the terrorist group had elections taken place. 
Hamas called the cancellation of the elections a “coup,” and according to Walla! News, the terror group is expected to try to provoke riots.
The European Union took issue with the possible eviction of east Jerusalem Palestinians from homes in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood, a move which is now being appealed before the High Court of Justice. At issue is a property dispute between them and the Nahalat Shimon company over land rights.
EU spokesman Peter Stano said that the possibility of such an eviction was “alarming,” claiming that “such unilateral actions are illegal under international humanitarian law and only fuel tensions on the ground. The Israeli authorities should cease these activities and provide adequate permits for legal construction and development of Palestinian communities.
“In light of recent developments in Southern Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory, the EU reiterates its firm condemnation of violence and calls for calm and restraint from all actors at this sensitive time,” it added.
 
Earlier on Sunday, the foreign ministries of France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the United Kingdom "urged" Israel to "cease" building in the West Bank, specifically in the Jerusalem neighborhood Har Homa. 
The Israeli government recently advanced the planned construction of a new 540-unit housing project in Har Homa, drawing criticism from the EU. 
"Settlements are illegal under international law," reads the joint statement, "and threaten prospects for a peaceful resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict." 
The argument is that the advancement will "cause further damage" to the prospects for a Palestinian state when coupled with the "continued evictions" in east Jerusalem, including Sheikh Jarrah.
UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Tor Wennesland said that he is “deeply concerned by the surge in tension and violence in the occupied West Bank, including east Jerusalem, since the beginning of the holy month of Ramadan,” pointing to the Israeli killed by a Palestinian terrorist and two Palestinians killed in altercations with the IDF this week.
“The latest developments related to the eviction of Palestine refugee families in Sheikh Jarrah...are also very worrying. I urge Israel to cease demolitions and evictions, in line with its obligations under international humanitarian law,” Wennesland said.
US Rep. Marie Newman of Illinois tweeted that “Palestinian families have every right to live in #SheikhJarrah.”
She called on the State Department “to immediately condemn these violations of international law as Palestinians are forcibly being removed from their homes in East Jerusalem.”
The High Court of Justice is expected to rule on the property dispute in Shimon Hatzadik as early as next week.
The four east Jerusalem Palestinian families who are fighting against possible eviction informed the court on Thursday that no deal had been reached with the Nahalat Shimon Company, and that the court would need to rule.
The High Court can either uphold the lower court decisions to evict the Palestinian families in favor of the Nahalat Shimon Company, or overturn that decision to allow the Palestinians to stay.
At a High Court hearing on Sunday, Justice Daphne Barak-Erez asked the company and the four Palestinian families to find a compromise solution, explaining that she believed that the two sides “are not so far apart.”
According to a lawyer representing the families, they had not rejected a potential compromise where the final resolution of the dispute could be postponed by their temporary agreement to pay rent until a resolution is achieved.
However, the lawyer said that Nahalat Shimon was only willing to accept the offer of the Palestinian families to pay rent and remain where they currently live if the families permanently renounced their claims of ownership to the residences in question.
The Palestinian families were not willing to go that far, and it was unclear how long the compromise would have allowed them to remain in their residences.
Nahalat Shimon is seeking to develop the areas for Jewish families, on land that belonged to Jewish organizations before 1948.
The Palestinian Authority has turned to the International Criminal Court to request that it recognize the eviction of the Palestinian families as a war crime.
Left-wing NGOs that have supported the families, such as Peace Now and Ir Amim, have warned that this case could set a precedent for the remainder of the 30 families in similar situations and allow for all of them to be evicted.
Jerusalem Deputy Mayor Fleur Hassan-Nahoum said the land had originally belonged to Jews, and past judgments had found that the Palestinians were not able to support their ownership claim.
The issues here are legal, Hassan-Nahoum said.
Demonstrations in support of the families this week turned violent, with at least 12 Palestinians injured since Sunday in clashes with police, three of whom required hospital treatment.
Police said Palestinian protesters have thrown rocks and firebombs during the demonstrations.
Religious Zionist MK Itamar Ben-Gvir announced that he plans to open an extra-parliamentary office in Shimon Hatzadik.
“Imagine that in Israel in 2021, Jewish children are afraid to walk freely in the streets of Jerusalem, Jewish women are afraid to go out running, Jewish homes are attacked day and night, and the police don’t lift a finger,” said Ben-Gvir.
Peace Now pointed out that Ben-Gvir follows the ideology of Rabbi Meir Kahane, and that Ben-Gvir is trying to “ethnically cleanse” the neighborhood.
“It is no wonder that he who continues the ways of Kahane is coming to observe up close how the Palestinian population is being evicted from neighborhoods of east Jerusalem,” the left-wing organization stated. “This is a cynical and shameful stance that will not help lower the flames in Jerusalem.”
The four families are among a group of 30 families who had been residents of Jaffa and Haifa but fled their homes during the 1948 War of Independence.
Jordan, which ruled east Jerusalem and the West Bank from 1948 to 1967, together with the UN, offered the families homes in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood in exchange for their agreement to relinquish their refugee status. But the property registration process was never completed, and the land remained registered to the two Jewish organizations that had owned it prior to 1948, according to Peace Now.
To help the Palestinian families, Jordan last month provided the PA with information to bolster their ownership claims.
Both the magistrate and district courts, however, have upheld the ownership claim of Nahalat Shimon, which purchased the property from the former Jewish owners.
Sheikh Jarrah’s residents are overwhelmingly Palestinian, but the neighborhood also contains Jewish residents and is located near a site revered by religious Jews as the tomb of an ancient high priest, Simon the Just, from whom it gets its Hebrew name.
Reuters contributed to this report.