Jerusalem under siege as Israelis and Palestinians clash

New DelhiEdited By: Gravitas deskUpdated: May 11, 2021, 11:17 AM IST


Story highlights

Palestinian protesters armed with stones and Israeli riot police with flash bangs and batons - it was a no contest. Hundreds of Palestinians were driven away by Israeli firing

Jerusalem is a city under siege and not for the first time.

From stories in the Bible to UN resolutions, it is a city forged in conflict. It has seen crusades, intifadas and now those faultlines have been ignited again.


The streets in Jerusalem are crawling with Israeli police with flash bangs flying overhead and injured Palestinians being rushed to hospitals.

At least 300 protesters have been hospitalised, some of them in critical condition. It is Israel's worst crackdown in recent history.

Some West Asian news outlets have been hinting at a third intifada or uprising.

The Palestinian protests started with a Supreme Court hearing. The judgement was due today but it's been postponed after the violence.

In Jerusalem, the case can mean only three things: religion, land or a combination of both. This case centred around Sheikh Jarrah. It is a Palestinian settlement near Damascus gate, one of the main gates in the old city of Jerusalem.

Today, the court was to decide whether the land should be given to Israeli settlers and considering the past, the judgement was a foregone conclusion.

In fact, some Israelis had already started moving in, with videos going viral. Palestinians mobilised and they organised protests, saying more evictions would soon follow.

It was flashpoint number one. Flashpoint number two started sometime in mid-April, the beginning of the holy month of Ramzan. The Palestinians wanted to meet in the old city while breaking their fast but Israeli police set up barriers. They prevented them from gathering.

Israel says they are maintaining order but it was supposed to be a peaceful, religious gathering which happened over the weekend. However, today things went up a notch as Israeli officers unleashed a wave of violence on the protesters with most centred around the al-Aqsa mosque.

It's the third holiest site in Islam after Mecca and Medina. Palestinian protesters armed with stones and Israeli riot police with flash bangs and batons - it was a no contest.

Hundreds of Palestinians were driven away by Israeli firing.

The al-Aqsa mosque has witnessed violence before. It is located on a hilltop. The jews call it temple mount, the holiest site in Judaism. The Muslims call it a noble sanctuary, the third holiest site of Islam.

The two religions have fought over it for years and they continue to do so. Today is Jerusalem day. On this day, Israel had captured eastern Jerusalem. It was during the 1967 Arab-Israel war, also called the six-day war. Israel had won against all odds and every year, Israel celebrates it with a march through the old city.

Palestinians say it is a deliberate provocation. Today, security was beefed up but in Jerusalem, security is offensive which explains why the cops stormed al-Aqsa during the holy month of Ramzan.

Many of the protesters ended up fleeing inside the mosque. Israel's crackdown is not new as they have oppressed Palestinians, evicted them from their homes and moved into their neighbourhoods, which is not sanctioned by international law.

However, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says he will continue doing it.

"This is not a mission that we can carry out without conflict from time to time with those same forces of intolerance that want to take away our rights — first of all our rights, but not only ours — to the temple mount and the other holy sites," Netanyahu said.

"We are determined to ensure the rights of all, and this thing requires from time to time to stand up and stand strong as Israeli police and our security forces are doing now," the Israeli PM said, adding, "We support them in this just struggle. These things, of course, have been incorrectly misrepresented in global media. In the end, the truth will prevail, but we must persist and say it."

The Israeli prime minister has made it clear - the settlements will continue, so will the crackdown on Palestinians.

Globally, Israel stands isolated. The biggest setback came from Washington. 

Former President Donald Trump largely ignored Israel's abuses in the West Bank but Joe Biden has a different approach. The State Department condemned the violence in Jerusalem. It asked Israeli officials to immediately de-escalate.

The Islamic world has united against Israel, including the countries that have normalised ties with them. In Turkey, there were protests outside the Israeli consulate. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is looking to capitalise on this issue. Erdogan called Israel a terror state.

Similar reactions have come out of Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Iran, with even the Pope weighing in. He called for the multi-cultural identity of Jerusalem to be upheld.

The UN says the crackdown could qualify as a crime against humanity. The European Union feels this makes a two-state solution even more difficult.