Israel refuses to lift 'racist siege' on Jerusalem's Sheikh Jarrah
Israeli authorities refused on Monday to lift restrictions on access to the east Jerusalem neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah, where several Palestinian families are in a battle to save their homes from occupation by Israeli settlers.
Israel's Public Prosecution rejected a petition filed to the Supreme Court by residents of the neighbourhood and the Adalah Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, The New Arab's Arabic-language service reported.
The petition had requested the removal of checkpoints at entrances to Sheikh Jarrah and an end to what residents say are discriminatory restrictions that have seen non-resident Palestinians barred from the neighbourhood while non-resident Jewish settlers are allowed in.
Adalah described the concrete barriers and the use of "skunk water" by Israeli forces as "illegal collective punishment".
"The degrading tactic of racial profiling that Israeli officers are now using – exclusively against Palestinians – serves as a tool in the hands of the Israeli far-right to hold Palestinian residents hostage in their own homes," Adalah said.
Responding to the petition, the Public Prosecution said police were "within their rights" to close off the neighbourhood to prevent "clashes".
Prosecutors also claimed there was no discrimination between Palestinians and Jewish Israelis at checkpoints in Sheikh Jarrah.
Palestinian residents of the neighbourhood say Israeli forces have placed them under siege.
Residents told Al Jazeera last week that many are too scared to leave their home in case they are not allowed back into the neighbourhood, while far-right Israeli extremists are allowed to access Sheikh Jarrah.
Palestinians living in Sheikh Jarrah say they face regular intimidation and threats from Israeli soldiers and Jewish extremists.
"They put three to four soldiers at the door of each of our houses to keep us locked inside. Whenever we tried to get out they said to us: ‘You stay inside or we will beat you'," Abelfatah Iskafi, who faces expulsion from his home, told Al Jazeera.
Last week, Israeli NGO Ir Amim issued a statement condemning the siege.
"The closure of the neighbourhood is seen as an intentional brazen move by the Israeli authorities to suppress Palestinian mobilisation and deprive the residents of Sheikh Jarrah of the freedom of expression and the right to protest against their forced displacement," Ir Amim said.
The non-profit, which says it works towards an "equitable and stable and Jerusalem", said Palestinians in the neighbourhood were living in a "cordoned-off military-like zone".
The attempted expulsion of several Palestinian families from their homes in Sheikh Jarrah has been described as a potential war crime by the United Nations.