The worst violence in years continued to rattle Israel and the Gaza Strip as rocket attacks on Israeli cities and airstrikes in the Gaza Strip continued for a fourth day.
The mounting death toll now includes 83 Gaza residents, including 17 children, according to Palestinian health officials. On the Israeli side, at least six people, including one teenager, are dead.
Riots and physical fights between Jewish and Arab Israelis have also broken out in cities and towns across Israel, prompting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to threaten to use military force to quash the “anarchy.”
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.
Brief Background: 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.
- 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.
- 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).
- 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.
- 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.
Fight between Israel and Hamas militant group:
- Israel and Hamas have a history of fighting three wars and various skirmishes since the militant group seized control of Gaza in 2007.
- Recent outbreaks of fights were mediated by Qatar, Egypt and various other middle east countries.
- Egypt helps Israel in controlling Gaza’s borders to halt weapons from landing in the hands of Hamas.
- Palestinians however are claiming to be tortured by both Hamas and Israeli army equally which Israel denies.
- Now a new tension between the two parties has emerged when in mid April 2021 night clashes took place between police and Palestinians.
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.
- The threatened eviction of dozens of Palestinian families in the East Jerusalem neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah escalated the crisis further in the last week of Ramzan.
- Clashes erupted 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.
- Hamas issued an ultimatum to the Israeli troops to stand down from Al-Aqsa. By the evening, they launched rockets. Israeli strikes followed.
The “two state solution” is based on a UN resolution of 1947 which proposed two states – one would be a state where Zionist Jews constituted a majority, the other where the Palestinian Arabs would be a majority of the population. The idea was however rejected by the Arabs.
For decades, it has been held by the international community as the only realistic deal to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The world at large needs to come together for a peaceful solution but the reluctance of the Israeli government and other involved parties have aggravated the issue more.
Thus, a balanced approach towards the Israel-Palestine issue would help to maintain favourable relations with Arab countries as well as Israel.