Friday, 5 March 2010

Tensions in east Jerusalem

Yesterday the Israeli army entered the Al-Aqsa mosque compound at the end of friday prayers, sparking protests in east Jerusalem and Abu-dis. This comes after attempts by Israeli settlers to enter the mosque in the last couple of months.

I was in a cafe in the old city of east Jerusalem when i saw scuffles break out on the TV. I headed towards the mosque and went past groups of Israeli soldiers and riot police. I witnessed a group of Israeli riot police confront a single stone thrower in one of the narrow streets in the old city (bottom picture).

The invasion of the mosque is a direct challenge to the right of Palestinians to worship peacefully in east Jerusalem. The Al-Aqsa mosque is one of the holiest sites in the world for Muslims.

The broader context is very important here. The Israeli government and settlers have declared war on the right of the Palestinians to live in east Jerusalem. This war involves bulldozers and housing permits rather than tanks and F-16s.

In the last 15 years more than 1,000 Palestinian homes have been demolished in east Jerusalem. Not a single settler home has been demolished.

Heidi Schramm writes in this week's Al-Ahram that, "according to a confidential European Union report leaked in March 2009, Israel 'is actively pursuing the illegal annexation' of east Jerusalem by uprooting the Palestinian population and expanding settlements" (25 Feb - 3rd March 2010).

When i got back from east Jerusalem at the end of the day the protests had spread to Abu Dis. Local youths had blocked off a main road and set fire to rubbish (top picture). Earlier in the day an Israeli army jeep in Abu-dis had been pelted with stones.

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