04/23/2021, 15.29
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Tensions and fears of more clashes in Jerusalem during Ramadan

Fear of violence and Israeli police barriers have limited the number of people going to the al-Aqsa compound. Palestinians and young Jewish supremacists from the Lehava group clashed last night, with about a hundred injured, 22 hospitalised, and more than 50 taken into custody. Provocations mar the holy month of Islamic fasting and prayer. Israel’s occupation is the main problem.

Jerusalem (AsiaNews) – Since the start of Ramadan, the holy month of Islamic fasting and prayer, “tensions in Jerusalem and the surrounding area have been progressively rising”. Today, “new clashes are feared” at the end of Friday prayers,” said Adel Misk, a Palestinian activist who spoke to AsiaNews from the al-Aqsa compound. “At this time, up to 300,000 people usually gather in al-Aqsa” added Misk, a neurologist by profession.

Last weekend, things appeared to getting back to normal. Some COVID-19 restrictions were lifted, and tens of thousands of people came to the compound. Today, “very few people are around,” Misk said.

At least a hundred people were injured in clashes that broke out yesterday evening near the Damascus Gate in the old city. Palestinian protesters clashed with at least 300 right-wing Jewish extremists marching towards them shouting “Death to the Arabs.” In an attempt to keep the two groups apart, Israeli police attacked the Palestinians who responded by throwing rocks.

The clashes followed days of tension, with a few minor incidents and some injuries.

According to the Red Crescent, at least 22 Palestinians ended up in hospital for medical treatment. Police took into custody about fifty people from both groups.

The march by Jewish supremacists targeted Muslim Arabs, repeatedly calling for their “death”. Such extremist elements are allied with caretaker Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who is trying to form a new government.

Palestinians came out to protest because police prevented the usual evening meetings that Muslims hold during Ramadan after the Iftar, the evening meal.

Tensions rose further after a video was posted on TikTok, a video-sharing social network, showing a Palestinian slapping an ultra-Orthodox Jewish man on Jerusalem’s light rail train.

This angered Israelis and triggered a protest by right-wing Israeli leaders, who are demanding police crack down harsh, as well as the “punitive expedition” by the Lehava group, who called for a protest in a show of national “honour”.

“Groups of young [Jewish] extremists provoked Palestinian youth in the month of Ramadan,” said Adel Misk, who is also a spokesman for the Parents Circle, an association that brings together about 250 Israelis and 250 Palestinians, all related to victims of the conflict,

During the holy month Muslims from across the West Bank, as well as Jordan, try to “reach al-Aqsa, the second Makkah, to pray. But Israelis are provoking Palestinians and trying to prevent them from entering the mosque, creating obstacles and putting up roadblocks.”

In addition to the groups of young people, “hundreds of police officers surround the area and prevent access to the mosque,” said the activist.

These restrictions, combined with right-wing provocations, “are the reason for the clashes. The situation is serious. Muslims wait for months to devotedly experience this period and fulfil their religious duties, only to be prevented by police and provocateurs. All this ends up making things worse.”

Political uncertainty in Israel is not helping either as Netanyahu tries to get the seats needed for a majority (61 out of 120) in the Knesset, the Israeli Parliament.

“The government is just hanging on and Netanyahu is using an iron fist against the Palestinians to show that only he can keep law and order.

“The main issue behind the tensions and violence is the Israeli occupation; for this reason, we need more international solidarity in order to end the deadlock and arrive at a signed agreement.”

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