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Court lets disputed Jerusalem home-building continue

March 19, 1997
Web posted at: 12:39 p.m. EST (1739 GMT)

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JERUSALEM (CNN) -- Israel's Supreme Court Wednesday refused to halt construction of a Jewish neighborhood in disputed East Jerusalem, as requested by Arab landowners and Israeli peace activists. Bulldozers ripped into the disputed hillside for a second day while dozens of troops stood guard.


The justices rejected two petitions for temporary injunctions. The petitions claimed the housing project discriminates against Jerusalem's Palestinian population because the planned 6,500 homes are intended only for Jews.

Instead, the government was ordered to explain within 60 days why the petitions should not be granted.

The court delayed for a week its hearing on a third appeal from a Jewish company whose land was confiscated by the government.

The site is called Har Homa by Israel and known to Arabs as Jabal Abu Ghneim.

No trouble at construction site

Israeli forces remained on high alert for potential violence from Palestinians, who say the housing project violates peace accords with the Jewish state. Palestinians also see the east of Jerusalem as their future capital.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's cabinet approved the project despite warnings from Palestinians and Israeli security officials of widespread unrest.

There were some stone-throwing clashes after ground was broken Tuesday afternoon. On Wednesday, however, 300 Palestinians marched peacefully in the West Bank town of Ramallah.

Supporters of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat kept the crowd away from Israeli soldiers to prevent clashes.

'Green light' for terrorism disputed

Also Wednesday, Netanyahu repeated his charge from a day earlier that Arafat had given Islamic militants a "green light" to resume bombings such as suicide attacks that killed scores of Israelis a year ago.


"We have solid information from the Israeli intelligence. We see contacts of the PLO with Hamas and other organizations," he told Israel Radio.

The U.S. State Department said Tuesday it had no evidence to support the prime minister. "On the contrary, we have recent assurances from Chairman Arafat that he stands against violence," spokesman Nicholas Burns said.

The United States said on Tuesday peace efforts could be crushed by the Israeli project. The Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) called for an immediate meeting of the U.N. Security Council to demand a halt to the settlement.

Jerusalem Bureau Chief Walter Rodgers and Reuters contributed to this report.


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