Why have tensions escalated in Jerusalem?

More than 200 Palestinians and 17 Israeli officers were injured in Jerusalem on Friday.

The violence took place after thousands of worshippers gathered at Al-Aqsa mosque for their weekly Friday prayers and were met with a heavy police presence.

Israel’s police forces fired rubber bullets and grenades and made arrests.

It comes after nightly protests broke out at the start of the holy month of Ramadan over police restrictions at a popular gathering place.

The demonstrations were reignited in recent days by the threatened eviction of dozens of Palestinians from their homes in the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood of east Jerusalem, which is claimed by both sides in the decades-old conflict.

Sheikh Jarrah

The Sheikh Jarrah district is home to the descendants of refugees who were expelled or displaced during the 1948 Palestine war in what became known by Palestinians as the “catastrophe” (Nakba).

In 1956, 28 refugee families were given housing units in an agreement between the UNRWA (United Nations Relief and Works Agency) and the Jordan government, to help provide shelter for the families as part of a resettlement agreement. This meant that the families were to receive legal titles and ownership of the land, but this never happened and led to an ongoing legal battle.

Following the Israeli occupation of the West Bank in 1967, settlers have claimed ownership of the land, despite international law stating that they have no legal authority over the population it occupies. However, settler groups have filed several successful lawsuits to forcefully evict Palestinians from Sheikh Jarrah since 1972.

In 2002, 43 Palestinians were forced to evacuate their homes, leaving many displaced.

Six years later the Hanoun and Ghawi families were forced to leave their homes behind and in 2017 the Shamasneh family were also evicted from their home by Israeli settlers.

Recent tensions

On Sunday, the Jerusalem District Court stated that six more Palestinian families in Sheikh Jarrah must leave their homes despite living there for many generations.

Israel’s supreme court will be host another hearing on the issue on Monday as the country celebrates the occupation of East Jerusalem in what is known as ‘Jerusalem Day’.

The United States said it was “deeply concerned” about both the violence and the threatened evictions, and was in contact with leaders on both sides to try and de-escalate tensions.“ It is critical to avoid steps that exacerbate tensions or take us farther away from peace,” the U.S. State Department said in a statement.

The European Union also urged calm. It said the potential evictions were of “serious concern,” adding that such actions are “illegal under international humanitarian law and only serve to fuel tensions on the ground. Neighbouring Jordan, which made peace with Israel in 1994 and is the custodian of Muslim holy sites in Jerusalem, has also condemned Israel’s actions, as has the Gulf kingdom of Bahrain, which normalised relations with Israel last year in a US-brokered deal.

“We will not recognise this property as belonging to settlers. We have lived in these homes for over 60 years and we will only leave our homes when we are carried to our graves,” Saleh Diab, a resident of Sheikh Jarrah, told AJ Plus.

Political leaders, activists and social influencers have been voicing their concern and dismay regarding the current situation in Jerusalem, with the hashtag ‘#SaveSheikhJarrah’ trending on social media.

The UN, meanwhile, has said Israel’s forced evictions of Palestinians “are a potential war crime”.

Source

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