‘Silence is not an option’ in East Jerusalem for Palestinians


Jerusalem (AFP)

Adnan, a Palestinian from East Jerusalem, vowed that the rubber bullets fired by the Israeli police would not deter him: “Silence is not an option” for the defense of Arabs in the holy city, he said. he says.

East Jerusalem, the predominantly Palestinian part of the city annexed by Israel in 1967, has been hit by some of its worst unrest in years.

Hundreds of Palestinians were injured and dozens arrested in clashes with police officers who were hit by stones and other projectiles thrown by mostly young and male Palestinian protesters, who also set cars and dumpsters on fire. garbage.

Heavy clashes followed evening Ramadan prayers on Friday night at the grounds of Al-Aqsa Mosque, Islam’s third holiest site, a flashpoint area also sacred to Jews – who call it the Temple Mount – where tensions set off a rapid global alarm.

For Adnan, 20, who, like many Palestinians in East Jerusalem, refused to give his name for fear of reprisal from the Israeli police, the protesters are responding to what he said was a persistent effort by Jewish settlers to kick them out of town.

“We are here, in the street, to say that we are not going to leave,” he told AFP.

“For years the settlers attacked us and took our land, but silence is no longer an option.”

– ‘I don’t want us to live here’ –

Several events sparked the outbreak in East Jerusalem, which Palestinians claim as the capital of their future state.

Protester Mohammed, who also declined to give his last name, argued that each incident was linked to an inevitable reality facing Palestinians in the city.

“The Israelis want us to work for them, but they don’t want us to live here,” he said.

Earlier this year, an Israeli court ruled in favor of Jewish settlers seeking to evict Palestinian families from their homes in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood, just north of the Old City.

The court said Jewish families had proven a decades-old claim to the land, infuriating Palestinians and sparking months of protests that have escalated in recent nights.

Other incidents fueled the flames.

Last month, Israeli police closed the stepped plaza in front of the Old City’s Damascus Gate, a traditional gathering place for Palestinians after Ramadan evening prayers.

The closure sparked violent clashes with police who removed the barricades after several nights of unrest.

Then came the clashes in Al-Aqsa Square after the last Friday prayers of Ramadan, which injured more than 200 people.

Police said they were responding to projectiles thrown by “thousands” of rioters.

Mohammed said he was among the thousands of people in Al-Aqsa who broke the fast, ate a date and drank water, “when the police started attacking us.”

Prayers to Al-Aqsa on Saturday for Laylat al-Qadr (Night of Fate), a peak of Ramadan believed to be the night the Quran was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad, went largely peacefully.

But unrest persisted in Sheikh Jarrah, where hostilities could escalate further in the days to come depending on further action by the Supreme Court.

– All of Palestine –

The court could decide, as early as Monday, whether Palestinian families threatened with eviction can appeal the lower court’s decision.

“The Sheikh Jarrah case is the case for all of Palestine,” said Malak Orok, 23, who was protesting with friends in Jerusalem on Saturday.

“Today it’s them (the four families). Tomorrow it will be us.”

The region has for years been the focal point of intense land battles between well-funded Jewish settler organizations and Palestinians.

Far-right Israeli lawmaker Itamar Ben-Gvir got involved in the crisis, visiting Sheikh Jarrah to declare his homes belong to Jews and called on the police to “open fire” on protesters.

AFP journalists saw Jewish settlers in Sheikh Jarrah armed with revolvers and assault rifles.

– Palestinian elections –

Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas condemned Israel for the violence, but he, too, angered some protesters.

Abbas’s decision to postpone the Palestinian elections, citing Israel’s refusal to guarantee the vote in East Jerusalem, has been criticized by some critics as a ploy to delay a vote in which his Fatah movement suffered setbacks.

The Islamists Hamas who control the Gaza Strip accepted the vote and called the postponement a “coup” against its new partnership with Fatah.

Hamas banners were displayed during the Al-Aqsa clashes on Friday, and some protesters in East Jerusalem called Abbas a “traitor.”

Jaad Assad, 24, told AFP that many other protesters believed Abbas’s loyalists were corrupt and “were collaborating with the Israelis.”

Assad said generations of Palestinians faced powerful rivals seeking their ouster, but survived them all.

“With God’s help, we will stay,” he promised.

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