A case threatening the eviction of Palestinians in Jerusalem’s Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood has triggered violent clashes at the third holiest Islamic shrine of Al-Aqsa mosque located in the old city of Jerusalem. More than 50 people were wounded and 23 hospitalised on Friday in the clashes between Palestinian worshippers and Israeli police in the mosque compound. The Palestinian Red Crescent said the injured were hit in the face and in the eyes by rubber-coated bullets and shrapnel from stun grenades.
Why did the Israeli Police fire at the Palestinians?
Tensions had flared as there was a heavy deployment of Israeli police at the compound as the Palestinian Muslims performed the evening prayers at the mosque during Ramadan. The Palestinians were seen throwing chairs, shoes and rocks towards the Israeli Police as per a video footage. The police responded with rubber bullets, stun grenades and closed closed the gates leading to Al-Aqsa.
Earlier in the day, the Israelis killed two Palestinians after three men opened fire on an Israeli police base in the West Bank. The Palestinian media said that Israeli settlers and police had attacked a Palestinian vigil in Sheikh Jarrah early on Friday.
Why is Israel displacing Palestinians from Old City of Jerusalem?
Israel has been displacing the Palestian families living in the Old City of Jerusalem in favour of the Israeli settlers. The Israeli settler organisations have mounted a legal case against the Palestinians living in the area. In 2019, the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court ordered 12 Palestinian families living in the Sheikh Cerrah Quarter to vacate their homes at the request of Jewish settlers. Four families objected, but the Israeli Central Court rejected the objections in mid-February.
Earlier this year, the Israeli Central Court ordered 7 families to evacuate their homes to be handed over to Jews. The court also rejected the objection of 3 Palestinian families living in the Sheikh Cerrah District to evacuate their homes on March 4. On May 2, the Supreme Court gave 4 families in Sheikh Jarrah a deadline until May 6 to “deal” with Jewish settlers.
The US reaction
“We are deeply concerned about the increasing tension in Jerusalem. In the coming days, it is important for all parties to act responsibly to maintain peace and to avoid conflict in order to lower the tension… We are deeply concerned about the displacement of Palestinian families in Sheikh Cerrah, where they have lived for generations,” said U.S. State Department spokeswoman Jalina Porter. Porter said that the US is against Israel’s unilateral steps.
Does it confirms to the international law?
The UN Human Rights office Friday called on Israel to halt forced evictions, as it flouts the international law and could be a termed a “war crime” in East Jerusalem.
Rupert Colville, a spokesman for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), cited a survey by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in 2020, in which at least 218 Palestinian households in East Jerusalem, including the families in Sheikh Jarrah, have eviction cases filed against them.
“The occupying power must respect and cannot confiscate private property in occupied territory, and must respect unless absolutely prevented, the laws in force in the country. This means that Israel cannot impose its own set of laws in occupied territory, including East Jerusalem, to evict Palestinians from their homes.
“And the transfer of parts of an occupying power civilian population into the territory that it occupies is prohibited under international humanitarian law and may amount to a war crime,” said Colville.
According to several UN Security Council resolutions, all legislative and administrative measures and actions were taken by Israel, the occupying power, which has altered or purport to alter the character and status of East Jerusalem, including expropriation of land and properties, are null and void and must be rescinded.
“Forced evictions are a key factor in creating a coercive environment that may lead to forcible transfer, which is prohibited by the Fourth Geneva Convention and is a grave breach of the convention,” said Colville.
“So we call on Israel to immediately hold all forced evictions, including those in Sheikh Jarrah, and to cease any activity that would further contribute to a coercive environment and lead to a risk of forcible transfer,” he said.
The UN Rights Office called on Israel to respect freedom of expression and assembly, including those protesting the evictions, and to exercise maximum restraint in the use of force while ensuring safety and security in East Jerusalem.
Israel took over East Jerusalem, where Al-Aqsa is located, during the 1967 Arab-Israeli war and took over the entire city in 1980.