Israeli police clash with Palestinians as tensions mount over Jerusalem evictions

The situation in Jerusalem's Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood was aggravated by the arrival of a far-right Israeli legislator

Riot police clashed with protesters in occupied East Jerusalem on Thursday as tension mounts over eviction orders hanging over Palestinian families, who may lose their homes to Israeli setters.

At least 15 people were arrested as police used rubber bullets and a "skunk truck", which sprays foul-smelling liquid, in the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood close to Jerusalem’s Old City.

As Palestinians gathered to demonstrate against court orders that could lead to dozens of residents being evicted, far-right legislator Itamar Ben-Gvir arrived to support Israeli settlers.

The appearance of Mr Ben-Gvir, widely regarded as a disciple of the late ultra-nationalist rabbi Meir Kahane, aggravated the situation on a street that has become the focal point of protests and violence.

“This is our home,” said the legislator, a resident of a Hebron settlement in the occupied West Bank. “The bullying will not win. Jerusalem is our home."

After clashes between Israeli settlers and Palestinians, who set up tables to break the Ramadan fast, police closed off the street and drove the demonstrators across the neighbourhood.

The Israeli police, who chased protesters on foot and horseback, said those detained were suspected of disorder and assaulting officers. Some Palestinians threw rocks at police.

A car was engulfed in flames, which Palestinians at the scene said was owned by Israeli settlers.

Police officers and Palestinians tried to put the fire out as it spread to a house, before firefighters arrived.

The violence in East Jerusalem escalated in recent weeks, initially around the Old City’s Damascus Gate after police prevented Palestinians from gathering there during Ramadan.

After days of protests in which Palestinians clashed with police, Jewish extremists marched towards the gate on April 22 chanting: “Death to Arabs.”

More than 100 Palestinians and 20 police officers were injured that night.

While relative calm returned to Damascus Gate, after Israeli authorities reversed restrictions at the plaza, the unrest shifted to Sheikh Jarrah.

Dozens of Palestinians face eviction this month from homes in the neighbourhood, which were built for their families in the 1950s, when East Jerusalem was governed by Jordan.

After Israel took control in the 1967 war, new laws were enacted that allowed Jews to reclaim land or property their descendants owned in East Jerusalem before the creation of Israel in 1948.

Meanwhile, Palestinians whose families fled or were forced from their homes in 1948 have no right to return to those properties under Israeli law.

The legislation is at the centre of the latest legal battle in Sheikh Jarrah, whose residents are lobbying politicians in the US and Europe for support.

The latest violence in East Jerusalem came after a Palestinian child and man were killed this week by Israeli forces, in separate incidents in the West Bank.

An Israeli, 19, was killed in a drive-by shooting on Sunday in the West Bank, reportedly by a Palestinian gunman, while two of his friends were wounded.

Updated: May 7, 2021 03:37 PM

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