02/16/2022, 12.12
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Tensions flare in Sheikh Jarrah, Msgr. Marcuzzo: open war unlikely

Clashes between Israelis and Palestinians have been taking place for days in the disputed neighbourhood in eastern Jerusalem. A government source does not exclude the risk of "an escalation". Dozens of people have been injured and arrested. Bishop of the Holy Land: new conflict unlikely, because "the price" would be "too expensive". Every Friday dozens of Israelis demonstrate in solidarity with Palestinian residents. 


Jerusalem (AsiaNews) - Tensions between Israelis and Palestinians are flaring again in the disputed neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah, in East Jerusalem, but "I do not think a new conflict is possible" because "everyone would pay too high a price" says the former Patriarchal Vicar of Jerusalem of the Latins, Monsignor Giacinto-Boulos Marcuzzo.

The prelate, who still lives in the holy city and is active in pastoral work, tells AsiaNews of the new outbreaks of violence in recent days in the area. From Gaza, "solidarity" has been expressed and its inhabitants "would like to do something", but not even from Hamas have there been any signals or a climate of "open war". 

In the meantime, the Israeli police guard the area, where there have been repeated clashes between Palestinian and Jewish residents. According to the Maan agency, dozens of people were injured or bruised, and at least 11 people were arrested by the security forces. Also involved in the violence was the extreme right-wing Israeli MP Itamar Ben Gvir, who had announced the reopening of an office in the area, sparking further tensions.

The conflict was fuelled by the burning of a house belonging to a Jewish family and the prospect of evicting a Palestinian family from a house they had been living in for decades. In the Gaza Strip, Hamas and Islamic Jihad are threatening retaliation, but so far these have only been announcements that have not been followed by attacks on the ground.

The dispute in Sheikh Jarrah erupted in early May, coinciding with a legal battle over the ownership of some houses; it raised the concern of the Church of the Holy Land and triggered - among other factors - a deadly flash war between Israel and Hamas in Gaza.

At the moment there are no specific security alerts, but attention remains high because similar situations in the past have triggered attacks on the Esplanade of Mosques and other areas of Jerusalem. Israeli officials accompanying Prime Minister Naftali Bennett on a diplomatic mission to Bahrain stress that the clashes could spiral out of control, leading to a blitzkrieg like the one in recent months with Hamas in Gaza. "A deterioration in Sheikh Jarrah", explained the source close to the executive, "could lead to an escalation". 

However, at the moment, for Msgr Marcuzzo, there are no clear signs of a war on the horizon and many want to prevent this from happening. For some months now," says the prelate, "every Friday there has been a solidarity demonstration in which dozens of Jews participate in support of the Palestinians of Sheikh Jarrah.

From a small group, membership has grown with the support of some left-wing movements and is now spreading. Recently, there were over a hundred people at a demonstration. The controversy in the disputed neighbourhood, continues the prelate, is the result of "Israel's plan to occupy as much land and houses in East Jerusalem as possible" by strengthening "expropriation plans".

At the same time, there are "open processes in the courts" and issues related to the very ownership of the land "that date back to the post-war period, to 1948 and 1949, to concessions made by Jordan, which gave land to Palestinians from Israel to build a refugee camp. From this original camp a real neighbourhood developed" around which today's dispute revolves. The point, warns Msgr. Marcuzzo, is that "when faced with open legal questions, with problems that are undeniable, one cannot react with imposition, with violence and demolition", but one should make room for dialogue and law. 

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