Attack on Al Aqsa Mosque and the struggle over Sheikh Jarrah

The Sheikh Jarrah settlement is nearly nine hundred years old. By international law, Israel is bound to respect the rights of the Palestinians to live in Shaikh Jarrah.

sheikh jarrah
Palestinians in Bethlehem, in the occupied West Bank, stage a protest in solidarity with Palestinian residents of the east Jerusalem neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah on May 10, 2021 [HAZEM BADER/AFP via Getty Images]

From 6 May 2021, violence has escalated in Palestine regarding the planned evictions of people from their homes in the town of Sheikh Jarrah in East Jerusalem. Protests began in Sheikh Jarrah, but spread to other parts of the West Bank, leading to clashes with Israeli forces, where reports have come in regarding crowds throwing rocks at Israeli forces.

On 9 May, Israeli police attacked the Al Aqsa Mosque, one of the holy sites for Muslims, where Muhammad was said to have ascended to heaven.

On 10 May, Hamas demanded immediate withdrawal of Israeli forces from Al Aqsa mosque, following which, they began firing over 150 rockets into Israel, leading to 5 deaths, and 70 injuries. Most of the rockets were intercepted and fell within Palestinian territory.

Following the rocket attacks, Israel responded with airstrikes in Gaza, leading to 65 deaths amongst the Palestinians, including 16 children, and over 300 injured. The clashes had led to a postponement of the eviction orders. The conflict has invited international condemnation against Israel.

Sheikh Jarrah

The Sheikh Jarrah settlement is nearly nine hundred years old. It is named after the famous Surgeon and Military Leader, Hussam al-Din al Jarrahi, who defended the land against European invaders during the Crusades. Jarrah means Surgeon in Arabic.

Jarrah
Palestinians pray as Israeli police gather at the compound that houses Al-Aqsa Mosque, in Jerusalem’s Old City, 7 May 2021 (Reuters/Ammar Awad)

After the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, Sheikh Jarrah was under Jordanian control. In 1956, 28 Palestinian families, who were refugees were settled in Sheikh Jarrah. The UN agreed to settle the refugees there. A decade later, in the Six-day War, Israel captured the region.

Since then, the rights of the Palestinians in the region have been unclear. By international law, Israel is bound to respect the rights of the Palestinians to live in Shaikh Jarrah.

Remembering the Second Intifada Against Israeli Occupation

In 1972, two Israeli organizations, the Sephardic Community Committee and the Knesset Yisrael Committee claimed the land. They said that in the 1870s, the land was owned by a Jewish trust and that they were the rightful owners of the land. The case was heard by the Israeli Supreme Court. The Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Jewish claimants saying that the Palestinians are allowed to remain, provided they pay rent to live on that land. Over time, Israelies have tried to evict Palestinians and build structures in the area. Their end goal has been to end Palestinian presence in East Jerusalem, and Sheikh Jarrah has been a site of conflict.

Many hardline groups have tried to procure land in Sheikh Jarrah, and have tried to evict local Palestinians. Palestinians have tried to contest the claims of ownership, but Israeli courts have sided mostly with the Israeli settlers against the Palestinians.

Palestinians have pointed that that as per International Law, they have a right to remain in their land, while the Israeli government has tried to insist that this is a property issue. The UN has insisted that evictions of Palestinians from their homes in Sheikh Jarrah would be a violation of their rights as repatriated refugees.

Protests against the evictions and the subsequent violence against the Palestinians have spread across the globe. The Israeli Courts have decided to postpone their decision regarding evictions.

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