Adnan, a Palestinian from East Jerusalem, promised that the rubber bullets fired by the Israeli police would not stop him: “Silence is not an option” when it comes to defending Arabs in the Holy City, he said.
East Jerusalem, the Arab part of the city that was annexed by Israel in 1967, has seen the worst turmoil in recent years this week.
Hundreds of Palestinians were injured and dozens were arrested in clashes with the police, who were attacked with stones and other projectiles launched by young protesters, and they set fire to cars and litter boxes.
Violent clashes followed Friday prayers at the mosque compound, the third holiest site in Islam, which Jews call the Temple Mount.
As for Adnan (20), whose real name was not mentioned for fear of retaliation by the Israeli police, the protesters are responding to what he saw as an ongoing attempt by Jewish settlers to expel them from the city.
“We are here on the street to say we will not leave,” he told AFP.
“The settlers attacked us and seized our lands years ago, but silence is no longer an option,” he added.
– “They don’t want us to live here” –
Several events have caused tension in East Jerusalem, which the Palestinians see as the capital of their future state.
Muhammad, another protester whose last name was not revealed, argued that each incident had to do with an inevitable reality for Palestinians in Medina.
“The Israelis want us to work with them, but they don’t want us to live here,” he said.
An Israeli court ruled this year in favor of Jewish settlers seeking to evacuate Palestinian families from their homes in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood, north of the city.
According to the court, Jewish families have proven their claim to the land for decades, which angered Palestinians and sparked months of protests that have escalated in recent nights.
But other incidents set the fires on fire.
In April, Israeli police closed the square outside the Damascus Gate in East Jerusalem, a meeting point for Palestinians after evening prayers in Ramadan.
The move sparked violent clashes with police, who raised barriers after several nights of riots.
Then came the clashes in Al-Aqsa Square on Friday after the Ramadan prayers, leaving more than 200 wounded.
Police said they acted in response to the projectiles fired by “thousands” of protesters.
Muhammad indicated that he was among the thousands who broke the fast, ate dates and drank water, “when the police started attacking us.”
On the other hand, calm reigned on the last Saturday of Laylat al-Qadr, which the Palestinians celebrate on the night the Qur’an was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad.
However, instability continued in Sheikh Jarrah, as hostilities could continue in the next few days, depending on what the Supreme Court decides on the evacuation of Palestinian families.
– All Palestinians –
“The case of Sheikh Jarrah is the whole issue of Palestine,” said King Uruk, 23, who spoke with friends in Jerusalem on Saturday.
“Today is theirs (the four families) and tomorrow it will be ours,” he said.
The area has been the focus of historical property disputes between Jewish and Palestinian settler organizations.
The far-right Israeli MP Itamar Ben Gvir got involved in the crisis by visiting Sheikh Jarrah to announce the ownership of their homes to Jews, and he asked the police to “shoot” the protesters.
Agence France-Presse reporters saw Jewish settlers armed with pistols and assault rifles in that neighborhood.
“Many protesters believe they believe supporters of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas are corrupt and are” cooperating with the Israelis, Jad al-Assad, 24, told AFP.
Assad claimed that generations of Palestinians faced powerful rivals seeking to expel them, but that they had outlived them all.
And he promised, “With God’s help we will remain.”
© 2021 AFP