New players add volatility to Jerusalem tensions


Jerusalem (AP) — The holy city of Jerusalem, a tinderbox of competing religious and political claims, has repeatedly caused violent attacks in Israel and Palestine.

This time around, including Jewish militants who became bold in recent parliamentary elections by political backers and made a provocative march to the walled Old City of Jerusalem, advocating “death to the Arabs.” , There were some additional sparks.

Over the course of a few days, the streets of Jerusalem fought every night between Israeli police and disgruntled Palestinian residents, escalating into a cross-border battle between Israel and the Islamic extremist Hamas in Gaza. Gaza militants fired violent rockets in southern Israel, and Israel launched several airstrikes in Gaza.

The political attitude of Israeli and Palestinian leaders is adding to the tension.

Let’s take a closer look at the causes of violence.

Center of Conflict:

Israel occupied East Jerusalem along with the West Bank and the Gaza Strip during the 1967 Middle East War. Palestinians, with East Jerusalem as the capital, claim all three regions for a future independent state.

After the war, Israel merged East Jerusalem, home to the city’s most sensitive Jewish, Muslim, and Christian sanctuaries, and sees the entire city as a unified capital.

The fate of Jerusalem and its sanctuaries is one of the most explosive problems in conflict, and Jerusalem has seen many waves of violence over the years.

Why now?

The direct spark of the current mayhem was Israel’s decision to barricade a square outside the Old City of Jerusalem during the Holy Moon of Ramadan.

The decision appeared to have been canceled late Sunday, when the barricade was suddenly removed and began a fun celebration outside the Damascus Gate.

Palestinians traditionally meet there every night after prayer and an all-day fast.

Hundreds of young Palestinian men took him to the streets every night, angry at the deprivation of their popular gathering place. Crowds threw stones, fire bombs, and other objects at the police, and police used stun grenades and water cannons to disperse them. Dozens of people were injured.

A clear reversal of Israel late Sunday may help ease tensions. When the people sat down the stairs again, the crowd applauded and chanted, “God is wonderful.”

The crackdown in recent weeks has touched on Palestinian fear that Israel is trying to gain more control over East Jerusalem.

“What we wanted to do was to be able to sit on the steps of the Damascus Gate and have a cup of coffee or tea at night,” said a 24-year-old resident who asked to refrain from his surname for fear of arrest. Said Lami.

“It’s a tradition for the residents of the old town to go out for a light meal. My dad was sitting on the steps of the Damascus Gate in front of me,” he said. “What the police are trying to do is simply erase our identity.”

On Thursday night, a far-right Israeli group called Rehaba gave a large-scale demonstration just a few hundred meters (yards) away from the Palestinian crowd.

The march was said to be a response to a TikTok video showing that Palestinians randomly slapped religious Jews. However, the leader of the group is a disciple of the late Rabbi Meir Kahane, who promoted the expulsion of Palestinians from the sanctuary. Police separated the two camps, but Lehava protesters chanted “Death to Arabs” and “Arabs Get Out.”

Early Saturday, Gaza militants fired 36 rockets at Israel, the most violent barrage of more than a year. Israel retaliated with a series of airstrikes on Hamas’ targets.

Politics in play?

President Mahmoud Abbas and his Hamas rivals sought to represent themselves as defenders of Jerusalem, as Palestinians are scheduled to hold elections next month.

Abbas threatens to postpone the election unless Israel allows Palestinians in East Jerusalem to vote. Israel has not announced its position, but it seems unlikely that it will fall. It could give Abbas, who is expected to perform poorly in the Fatah party, an excuse to cancel the vote. However, it can also increase tensions in Jerusalem.

Hamas is not believed to be directly involved in the recent launch of rockets, but as a message of solidarity with the Palestinians in Jerusalem, it rarely stops and implicitly encourages it. May be.

Meanwhile, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is desperately trying to take power after four consecutive stalemate in Israeli elections last month.

Netanyahu expressed his support for “religious Zionism,” a far-right party with loose ties to Rehaba. This outreach seems to have made Rehaba bold. Netanyahu is unlikely to take control of the group and its supporters, as it takes more than a week to form the New Deal coalition.

“The underlying question is how much Netanyahu’s failure to form a coalition shaped the conflict and government reaction,” commentator Nadab Eyal wrote daily to Yedioto Afronott. .. “There are just too many matches that could light up.”

Cooler head?

Israel’s decision to allow Palestinians to remove the barrier late Sunday appeared to be aimed at relieving tensions.

Earlier, both Israel and Hamas signaled that they wanted to cool things down.

At the end of Saturday, rocket launches from Gaza resumed, but the rate of fire was much slower, with only four projectiles fired. Israel decided not to retaliate and the rocket fire subsided.

At the same time, Netanyahu appealed for tranquility in Jerusalem. “Now we are demanding that we obey the law. I call on all sides to be calm,” he said.

Jordan and Egypt, the caretakers of the Islamic sanctuary in Jerusalem, jointly called on Israel on Sunday to “stop all attacks and provocative measures” in Jerusalem.

Jordan and Egypt’s foreign ministers talked over the phone about tensions and jointly condemned “violence and agitation by radical groups against Palestinians,” the Jordanian Foreign Ministry said.

It was impossible to predict whether the collision would end, but the initial reaction to the removal of the barriers outside the old town seemed to be a positive sign.

However, at the end of Sunday, a minor brawl broke out in Jerusalem, and Israeli forces reported two rocket launches from Gaza, indicating that the latest troubles were not over.

Earlier on Monday, Israel announced that it would close fishing grounds in the Gaza Strip indefinitely, “because rockets continued to be launched from the Gaza Strip into Israel at night.”

However, Israel did not fight back as it seemed to be an effort to ease tensions. Israeli media reported that police said the removal of the barricade outside the Damascus Gate was a trial to see if things settled down.

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The Associated Press writer Laurie Kellman in Tel Aviv, Israel, and Omar Akour in Amman, Jordan contributed to this report.

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