When the entire world is observing Ramadan fasting period in peace, East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah saw Palestinians and Israelis hurling rocks and chairs at each other during an Iftar party on May 6. Israeli police intervened and arrested 15 Palestinians to bring the situation under 'control'. Meanwhile, Hamas terror group in Gaza has warned of renewing violence.
The situation turned tense as Palestinian protesters were seen throwing stones and setting cars on fire. On the other hand, Jewish Israeli civilians were seen drawing guns and in the videos being circulated one can be seen firing shots in the air.
Why is Sheikh Jarrah in turmoil?
Guns Drawn During Iftar Party
Palestinians are protesting against forced displacement of six families situated in the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood following an order from a district court in East Jerusalem. The court has also ruled that seven more families in Sheikh Jarrah must leave their homes by August 1.
More Palestinians will be forced to vacate their homes in the coming weeks if the Supreme Court turns down their appeal against a pending eviction. Currently, right-wing Jewish nationals are settling down in Sheikh Jarrah. They are of the opinion that the Palestinian homes were built on land owned by Jewish people before Israel was established as a state.
Meanwhile, Times of Israel quoted Nabeel al-Kurd, one of those facing eviction as saying: "This land is Palestinian land... and we, the inhabitants of the neighborhood, we cannot accept that this land is theirs [Israel's], this land is ours."
Currently, with the help of cops, right-wing Jewish Israelis are trying to acquire property in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood, which is situated in the north of Jerusalem's Old City. The clashes on Thursday were propelled during an Iftar party arranged by pro-Palestinian protesters. Footage also shows an Israeli spraying pepper spray at the Palestinian Iftar table. This is said to have led to a violent clash. In the May 5 clash, 22 Palestinians were wounded and eleven people were arrested.
The Times of Israel stated that around 200 families in East Jerusalem are under threat of eviction. Around 70 of those families live in Sheikh Jarrah. Palestinians have expressed fear that these clashes, arrests and court orders are a part of an ongoing effort by Israeli settlers to take control of Palestinian homes in the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood.
Cause of Clashes in Sheikh Jarrah
Israel boasts of conquering Sheikh Jarrah in 1967 but it is not recognised by most of the international community. Since 1956, a total of 37 Palestinian families have settled down in Sheikh Jarrah. These families also include refugee families who were ethnically cleansed from their homes in Jaffa and Haifa in 1948.
But Jewish settlers have been trying to push the Palestinians out of their homes since 1970, post a law passed by the Israeli parliament that allowed Jews to reclaim East Jerusalem land owned by Jews before 1948.
Seventy years ago, the disputed land of Sheikh Jarrah was vacant. People [Mostly Palestinians] started settling down in this land after Israel's 1948 War of Independence. After the war, Palestinian Arab neighborhoods in the city's south and east came under the control of Jordan.
In the 1950s an agreement was signed by Jordan, the United Nations, and 28 refugee families. Accordingly, the Jordanian government provided the land and the United Nations offered cash to build the homes for 28 refugee families.
Palestinians claim that the terms of the agreement states that tenants must pay a symbolic fee for the first few years and then they will become owners of the property. Thus, they will not be called refugees and will not receive any benefits from the UN Relief and Works Agency.
But the problem lies in the fact that the Jordanian government did not formally transfer the ownership of the land to the Palestinians. This has made them vulnerable against Israel, which claims to have occupied the land from Jordan in 1967.
Association for Human Rights in Israel states that around 358,000 Palestinians live in East Jerusalem. In this land, Palestinians have residency rights but they are not considered citizens of Israel. Palestinians claim that this land is the the capital of a future Palestinian state.
Currently, families living in Sheikh Jarrah are experiencing the most difficult times as the Israeli police have blocked the plaza and a far-right Israeli group have marched into the areas chanting "death to Arabs". Police are seen using force and violence including quelling protesters [Palestinian] with stun grenades, water cannons and skunk water before removing the barriers.