Image Credit: Mujaddara Wikimedia Commons
The Israeli–Palestinian conflict is one of the oldest and most complex global conflicts, and in the past week East Jerusalem has become the new focal point of the world’s media.
At the time of writing, the UN is fearing a “full-scale war” due to escalation of events in the last couple of days. It has been reported that over 1,000 rockets have been fired into Israel in the last 38 hours, mostly aimed at Tel Aviv. Israel have responded by striking Gaza. At least 41 people have been killed and the city of Lod, near Tel Aviv, has been put under a state of emergency.
This conflict is a consequence of events in East Jerusalem. Palestinians living in the Sheikh Jarrah District in East Jerusalem are expecting to be evicted to make room for new Israeli settlements and each family will be expected to pay to cover the settler’s legal expenses. Commentators say that the new settlements will most likely be given to those who argue that the land belonged to Jewish associations before the state of Israel came into being. Some protestors have accused Israel from purposefully removing Palestinians from Jerusalem homes.
The protests have intensified over the last few days with clashes between Israeli police and protesters reaching a climax outside the holy city’s al-Aqsa mosque on Friday. Approximately 90,000 people had gathered for prayers on one of the most important days nights for Muslims during Ramadan. More than 200 people were injured in attacks outside the mosque with further clashes on Saturday injuring another 80 and sending 14 to hospital, according to the Palestine Red Crescent.
The al-Asqa mosque is considered the third-holiest site in Islam but its location is the Temple Mount which is the holiest site in Judaism, meaning that tensions are constantly high.
The last few weeks saw militants in Gaza fire at least 35 rockets into Israel and Monday evening saw another launch of rockets, with air raid sirens being set off in Jerusalem. Hamas, a militant group who consider themselves at war with Israel since 2007 claimed responsibility and fired rockets after giving Israel an ultimatum to remove its forces from the al-Asqa mosque and release detained Palestinians.
There have also been complaints from Palestinians who feel they have been stopped from breaking fast during the holy month of Ramadan as Israeli police erected barriers outside the Damascus Gate.
The last week of April saw 100 people injured after far right group Lehava marched to Jerusalem’s Old City chanting “Death to Arabs”.
Israelis and Palestinians have struggled to co-exist in East Jerusalem as early as since the formation of Israel in 1948, when many Palestinians were forced out of their homes in what they call the “Nakba.” In the aftermath of this, 28 families settled in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood in East Jerusalem in 1956. At the time, East Jerusalem was controlled by Jordan during the Arab-Israeli war, although in 1967 Israel gained control in the Six Day War in a move that many in the international community do not recognise.
Currently, Israel recognises the entire city as its capital, whilst Palestine views East Jerusalem as their future capital should they become an independent state.
The UN have commented that any evictions carried out by Israel could amount to “war crimes” and that East Jerusalem remains part of the occupied Palestinian territory. Israeli officials have described the situation as a “real estate dispute”
At the time of writing, the hearing to decide whether the East Jerusalem eviction will take place has been postponed by the Israeli Supreme Court. It was due to take place on Monday 10 May which coincided with Jerusalem Day which marks the celebration of Israel gaining control of the Old City of Jerusalem in 1967. This nationalist day normally sees clashes between Israelis and Palestinians due to marches through Arab areas. Current tensions had led police to question whether the march should still go ahead but the normal celebrations have been approved.
There has also been increased international focus on how these poor relations have impacted the vaccine rollout within Israel and Palestine. In the last week of April, BBC Newnight presenter Emily Maitlis asked the Israeli ambassador why only 0.5 percent of Palestinians had been vaccinated and whether Israel had a moral duty to do more. The ambassador, Tzipi Hotvoley, argued that Palestine had asked to use its own vaccination programme. She later declined to support a two state solution in Israel claiming she “supported peace.”
With tensions continuing to rise, it is clear that the violence in East Jerusalem and indeed Israel is only set to intensify.