Violence festers in East Jerusalem: Israeli police clamps down on Palestinian protestors

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In a still developing situation, tensions rise and violence deepens as Palestinians protest against forced eviction by Israeli settlers from Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of occupied Palestine. The simmerings tensions of the past weeks erupted into violence on Friday when the heavy Israeli police presence outside the Al Aqsa mosque compound clashed with the protestors in the mosque who had also come to worship on the final Friday of Ramadan.

The protests and following violence have been ignited by the Israeli supreme court’s hearing, which was scheduled for Monday, which will decide whether to grant an appeal to Palestinians in Sheikh Jarrah who face losing their homes. The Sheikh Jarrah issue has been running for decades since Jewish settler organisations filed a lawsuit in the 1970s claiming the area belonged to Jews originally, and seeking the expulsion of Palestinian families living there since 1956. Read more about the history of Sheikh Jarrah here.

The escalating violence had injured over 205 Palestinians and 17 Israeli police officers in the first night and the numbers continue to increase. The situation has prompted an international response that has sharply criticised Israel. U.S. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan expressed “serious concerns” about the situation in Jerusalem, including the potential evictions, in a call with his Israeli counterpart on Sunday.
The Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas called on the UN security council to hold an urgent session on the issue. The UN Human Rights office on Friday, urged Israel to halt forced evictions, which would flout international law and could be a “war crime”. The UN Rights Office further implored Israel to respect freedom of expression and assembly, including those protesting the evictions, and to exercise maximum restraint in the use of force while ensuring safety and security in East Jerusalem.
The Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has defended police action against Palestinian protesters after two nights of clashes. However, in a bid to alleviate tensions and prevent further violence, the government sought to delay the hearing and after a request put in by the Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit, High Court postponed the hearing and said a new date for the hearing will be set within 30 days and that the Palestinian families in Sheikh Jarrah will remain in their homes until a decision is made.

But despite this, the violence continues to erupt in East Jerusalem as Israeli forces stormed the Al Aqsa mosque on Monday morning firing rubber-coated bullets, tear gas, and sound bombs at Palestinian worshippers. The ambush lasted for about three hours until the troops withdrew around 10.30am (local time) allowing the Palestinians trapped inside to leave. The Palestinian Red Crescent reported that at least 305 people have been wounded in this raid. Many are saying that this Sheikh Jarrah issue is not just about the fate of a few Palestinians but a stand-in for the whole decades long Israeli Palestinian conflict.