The relations between Israel and Palestine are seeing a new low, with tensions rising beyond the 2014 Gaza War, as Israel continued air strikes on Gaza throughout the week. Currently, the death toll at Gaza stands at 113, which reportedly includes 31 children. Over 600 people have been reportedly wounded in the area. Israel, on the other hand, has reported seven casualties from Hamas' bombings.
The bombings began on May 10 with missile strikes by Hamas in Israel, in retaliation to the raid by Israeli forces in the al-Aqsa Mosque in the wee hours of the day, disrupting morning prayers for many - a move that received international widespread condemnation. Israel quickly responded with air strikes in Gaza, and levelled a building in a densely populated civilian area on May 11, reportedly killing 33 people on spot.
As the week progressed, the air strikes showed no signs of abating. "It's crazy in here, the air strikes are non-stop," Youmna Elsid, a Gaza-based journalist, told BOOM.
In Israel, instances of communal violence have increased between Arabs and Jews, with reported instances of attacks against Arabs by Jewish mobs.
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According to Al Arabiya, Egyptian delegates arrived in Tel Aviv on Thursday to mediate tensions between Hamas and Israel, and put a curb on the violence in Gaza. Israel had earlier rejected a ceasefire agreement brokered by Egypt.
Sheikh Jarrah - Where It All Started
Nearly 2 km north of the Old City lies Sheikh Jarrah - a predominantly Palestinian neighbourhood in East Jerusalem. Earlier a neighbourhood for affluent Arabs of Jerusalem, Sheikh Jarrah became a place of refuge for Palestinians displaced in the 1948 Arab-Israeli war, after Jordan resettled them in the neighbourhood in exchange for them giving up their refugee status.
The area bears significant relevance for Judaism and Islam. According to Jews, it houses the tomb of Shimon HaTzadik, a Jewish High Priest during the Second Temple period. Adjacent to Sheikh Jarrah is the Temple Mount, which houses the Islamic shrine called the Dome of the Rock, and is among the holiest sites in Islam. Sheikh Jarrah itself derives its name from the physician of Saladin, the founder of the Ayyubid dynasty, and is said to house his tomb as well.
Israel, who occupied East Jerusalem during the 1967 Six-Day War, has since made consistent efforts in replacing the Palestinian population in Sheikh Jarrah, under increasing pressure from Israeli nationalists. Following this, Israel had passed a law allowing Jews to reclaim property in Jerusalem, including the eastern parts where Sheikh Jarrah is located.
Forced Expulsions Under Israeli Occupation
Israeli settler groups have since waged a long and persistent battle spanning several decades, to claim Palestinian properties in East Jerusalem, leading to the eventual displacement of 43 Palestinians in 2002, as well as the forced expulsion of the Hanoun and Ghawi families in 2008, and the Shamasneh family in 2017. Israel, rejecting the accusations of apartheid by human rights groups, has called it a matter of private real-estate dispute between 'occupants and land owners'.
The forced expulsions - which, the United Nations have warned, could amount to war crimes - have been brewing resentment and anger among Palestinians, who consider Israeli-occupied East Jerusalem to be their capital city.
In October 2020, the Israeli court gave eviction notices to four more Palestinian families, with May 2 as a deadline to move out. As the deadline approached, tensions mounted, forcing the court to postpone the date twice. However, the looming fear of forced expulsions have led to added unrest and increasing number of protests by Palestinians in Jerusalem.
On May 7, thousands of Palestinians, who had gathered at the al-Aqsa Mosque to pray on the final Friday of Ramadan, stayed back to protest against the expulsions. The protests turned into clashes between Palestinians and Israelis, with Israeli security forces eventually firing rubber bullets and stun grenades.