Israel and Palestine International

The Hindu Explains | What is happening in Jerusalem?

A Palestinian boy watches smoke billowing from targets during Israeli airstrikes on the southern Gaza region of Khan Yunis, controlled by the Hamas movement, on May 11, 2021.   | Photo Credit: AFP

The story so far: On Monday, Israeli armed forces stormed Al-Aqsa Mosque in the Haram esh-Sharif in Jerusalem, ahead of a march by Zionist nationalists commemorating Israel’s capture of the eastern half of the city in 1967. More than 300 Palestinians were injured in the raid. In retaliation, Hamas, the Islamist militant group that runs Gaza, fired dozens of rockets. The Israelis launched an airstrike on Gaza in response, killing at least 21 Palestinians, including nine children.

What is behind the current escalation?

Tensions have been building up since the start of Ramzan in mid-April when Israeli police set up barricades at the Damascus Gate outside the occupied Old City, preventing Palestinians from gathering there. As clashes erupted, the police removed the barricades, but tensions were already high.

Also read: Israel says troops kill two Palestinian attackers in West Bank

The threatened eviction of dozens of Palestinian families in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah escalated the crisis further in the last week of Ramzan. Clashes erupted on the night of May 7 in Jerusalem between Palestinian protesters and Israeli police in which hundreds of Palestinians and over a dozen Israeli police personnel were injured.

The Israeli authorities had given permission to the Jerusalem Day march, traditionally taken out by far-right Zionists through the Arab Quarter of the Old City. Ahead of the march on May 10 (which was rerouted given the tensions), Israeli armed forces stormed Al-Aqsa Mosque with rubber bullets, stun grenades and tear gas to evict Palestinians, who Israel said had camped with stones and Molotov cocktails. Hamas issued an ultimatum to the Israeli troops to stand down from Al-Aqsa. By the evening, they launched rockets. Israeli strikes followed.

Watch | Israel-Palestine conflict: What is happening in Jerusalem?

What is the Sheikh Jarrah dispute?

Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were forced out of their homes when the State of Israel was created in historical Palestine in 1948 (the Palestinians call the events ‘Nakba’, or catastrophe). Twenty-eight of those Palestinian families moved to Sheikh Jarrah in East Jerusalem to settle there.

Also read: On the edge: On international pressure on Israel

In 1956, when East Jerusalem was ruled by Jordan, the Jordanian Ministry of Construction and Development and the U.N. Relief and Works Agency facilitated the construction of houses for these families in Sheikh Jarrah. But Israel would capture East Jerusalem from Jordan in 1967.

By the early 1970s, Jewish agencies started demanding the families leave the land. Jewish committees claimed that the houses sat on land they purchased in 1885 (when Jews were migrating to historic Palestine that was part of the Ottoman Empire). Earlier this year, the Central Court in East Jerusalem upheld a decision to evict four Palestinian families from their homes in Sheikh Jarrah in favor of Jewish settlers.

The Israeli Supreme Court was scheduled to hear the case on May 10. But it was postponed on advice from the government amid the ongoing violence in Jerusalem. The issue remains unresolved and potentially inflammable.

Why Jerusalem?

Jerusalem has been at the centre of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. According to the original 1947 UN partition plan, Jerusalem was proposed to be an international city. But in the first Arab Israel war of 1948, the Israelis captured the western half of the city, and Jordan took the eastern part, including the Old City that houses Haram al-Sharif. Al-Aqsa Mosque, Islam’s third holiest site, and the Dome of the Rock are situated within Haram esh-Sharif (Noble Sanctury).

Also read: Amid weekend clashes, Israel vows to keep Jerusalem order

One side of the compound, called Temple Mount by the Jews, is the Wailing Wall (Western Wall), which is believed to be the remains of the Second Jewish Temple, the holiest site in Judaism.

Israel captured East Jerusalem from Jordan in the 1967 Six-Day War and annexed it later. Since its annexation, Israel has expanded settlements in East Jerusalem, which is now home for some 220,000 Jews. Jews born in East Jerusalem are Israeli citizens, while Palestinians in the city are given conditional residency permits. Palestinians in East Jerusalem, unlike other parts of the occupied West Bank, can, however, apply for Israeli citizenship.

Very few Palestinians have done so. Israel sees the whole city as its “unified, eternal capital”, a claim endorsed by Donald Trump when he was U.S. President but not recognised by most other countries. The Palestinian leadership across the political spectrum have maintained that they would not accept any compromise formula for the future Palestinian state unless East Jerusalem is its capital.


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Printable version | Jun 24, 2021 12:45:28 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/international/explained-what-is-happening-in-jerusalem/article34532966.ece

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