Israeli court finalizes Jerusalem church land sale to settler group

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An Orthodox Jewish man is seen using a cell phone while walking past the New Imperial Hotel in the Old City of Jerusalem near the Jaffa Gate. (AFP)
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An Israeli flag flying near the New Imperial Hotel in the Old City of Jerusalem near the Jaffa Gate. (AFP)
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A view of the New Imperial Hotel in the Old City of Jerusalem near the Jaffa Gate. (AFP)
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An Orthodox Jewish man is seen walking past the New Imperial Hotel in the Old City of Jerusalem near the Jaffa Gate. (AFP)
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An Israeli flag flying near the New Imperial Hotel in the Old City of Jerusalem near the Jaffa Gate. (AFP)
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A view of the New Imperial Hotel in the Old City of Jerusalem near the Jaffa Gate. (AFP)
Updated 11 June 2019

Israeli court finalizes Jerusalem church land sale to settler group

  • Three companies linked to a group named Ateret Cohanim in 2004 secured the long-term lease of three buildings owned by the Greek Orthodox Church
  • Israel took over mainly Palestinian east Jerusalem in the 1967 Six-Day War and later annexed it in a move never recognized by the international community

JERUSALEM: Israel’s top court gave final approval Monday for the 2004 sale of properties by the Greek Orthodox Church to a Jewish pro-settlement organization in mainly Palestinian areas of annexed east Jerusalem.
In its Monday decision, the supreme court rejected the church’s appeal against a district court’s 2017 approval of the same deal.
Three companies linked to a group named Ateret Cohanim in 2004 secured the long-term lease of three buildings owned by the Greek Orthodox Church — the Petra hostel and the New Imperial Hotel, both located by the Jaffa Gate, and a residential building in the Muslim Quarter.
Ateret Cohanim works to “Judaise” east Jerusalem in its entirety by purchasing real estate in the city’s Palestinian areas through front companies.
The deal made Ateret Cohanim the owner of the majority of the properties between the Old City’s Jaffa Gate and Arab market.
A source close to the Greek Orthodox patriarchy of the early 2000’s told AFP in 2017 that the church was unaware of the land sale.
The sale triggered Palestinian anger and led to the 2005 dismissal of Patriarch Irineos I.
In a statement on Tuesday, Palestinian Greek Orthodox Archbishop Atallah Hanna described the Supreme Court’s decision as “illegal and illegitimate.”
“The seizure of the historic Jaffa Gate properties by extremist settler organizations is a new catastrophe to the misfortunes suffered by the Christians in this Holy City,” he said, calling for the deal to be canceled in a lawful manner.
The Greek Orthodox Church is the largest and wealthiest church in the Holy Land.
Its Jerusalem patriarchate commands massive wealth, largely in land portfolios in Israel, the occupied West Bank and Jordan, with Palestinians often accusing it of selling or leasing properties to Israel.
Israel took over mainly Palestinian east Jerusalem in the 1967 Six-Day War and later annexed it in a move never recognized by the international community.
It now considers the entire city its capital, citing the Jewish historical and biblical connection there.
The Palestinians see east Jerusalem, which includes the Old City, as the capital of their future state.
Some 320,000 Palestinians live in east Jerusalem, while the Israeli settler population there has grown to 210,000.
The Jerusalem district court had dealt with claims against the deal for nine years before approving it.
The supreme court said the earlier ruling was sound and “the appeal is rejected.”


Libyan navy says more than 300 migrants rescued

Updated 12 min 36 sec ago

Libyan navy says more than 300 migrants rescued

  • 128 Sudanese were in the boats, in addition to migrants from Chad, Egypt, Niger, Benin and Eritrea
  • It came days after Libyan navy patrols “rescued 278 migrants on board four inflatable boats

TRIPOLI: The Libyan navy said Sunday 335 migrants had been rescued and one body recovered in separate operations off the coast, as they tried to cross the Mediterranean to reach Europe.
Nine children were among 57 migrants in a wooden boat rescued Saturday about 40 nautical miles from the town of Zuwara, west of Tripoli, navy spokesman General Ayoub Kacem told AFP.
He said they were from Ethiopia and Egypt.
It came days after Libyan navy patrols on Tuesday “rescued 278 migrants on board four inflatable boats northwest and northeast of Tripoli,” Kacem added.
The operations took place off the coasts of the cities of Khoms, 120 kilometers (75 miles) east of Tripoli, and Sabratha, located 70 kilometers west of the capital.
According to the statement, 128 Sudanese were in the boats, in addition to migrants from Chad, Egypt, Niger, Benin and Eritrea, including 35 women and 11 children.
One body was also recovered by the coast guard.
Libya, which has been wracked by chaos since the 2011 uprising that killed dictator Muammar Qaddafi, has long been a major transit route for migrants, especially from sub-Saharan Africa.
In general, migrants rescued at sea are first met by humanitarian agencies that provide medical care and food.
They are then taken into the charge of the body working to combat immigration at the interior ministry of the UN-recognized Government of National Accord.
On August 9, the Libyan navy accused the authorities of failing to manage migrants rescued at sea, claiming that it could be forced to let people go free once brought back to land.
Despite the risks, migrants continue to attempt to reach Europe by sea, preferring to take their chances than stay in Libya, where they are subject to abuse, extortion and torture, according to humanitarian organizations.