First half of 2021…Palestinian uprising to defend Jerusalem…hundreds of arrests…deportation orders and continuous demolitions
Al-Aqsa Mosque, Damascus Gate, and Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood were the most prominent headline for the hot events in Jerusalem in the first half of this year, as it witnessed the fiercest confrontations and the accompanying repression, arrests and closures, and Jerusalem was the title of a war that raged for 11 days, during which the occupation forces launched an attack on Gaza Strip, and its repercussions extended for the first time in years on the cities of the Palestinian 1948 lands.
The relative calm that prevailed since the beginning of this year changed dramatically with the advent of the holy month of Ramadan in early April, and the beginning of events in Damascus Gate after the occupation authorities placed iron barriers on its stairs, to prevent Palestinians from sitting, being present and meeting during Ramadan, and Damascus Gate Square turned into a point where night confrontation took place and extended to the adjacent streets and Jerusalemite neighborhoods and towns.
Another shift in the confrontations in Jerusalem was on the 22nd of April, following calls by the extreme right-wing "Lyhava Organization", to organize marches for settlers under the slogan "defending Jewish honor." The people of Jerusalem rose to defend the city, and thwarted the entry of dozens of settlers to Damascus Gate.
As for the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood, the daily activities and sit-ins began, with the approaching date for implementing the eviction decisions that threaten dozens of residents under the pretext of “Jewish ownership of the land.” The sit-ins and presence in the neighborhood were met with repression and attacks on those present and residents by the occupation forces, and settlers, headed by a member of the Knesset, the extremist Itamar Ben Gavir, who stormed the neighborhood and moved his office in front of the seized building of al-Ghawi family, preceded on the same day an attack by dozens of settlers on the fasting Palestinians with pepper gas and stones, coinciding with the Evening Prayer while they were breaking their fast.
As for the attack on the sanctity of Al-Aqsa Mosque and the calls for settlers' intrusions into it, it was a fuse that ignited a Palestinian popular uprising and a global campaign of solidarity.
During the first half of this year, hundreds of arrests were recorded against young men, women and children, deportations from Al-Aqsa for various periods, and an escalation in the policy of demolishing residential and commercial facilities, under the pretext of building without a permit, as monitored by the Wadi Hilweh Information Center in its semi-annual report for the year 2021.
Two martyrs in Jerusalem
The young man Shaher Abu Khadija from the town of Kufor Aqab was martyred on 16/5/2021 after carrying out a run-over attack against the occupation soldiers stationed at the entrance to "Karam al-Jaouni", in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood in Jerusalem.
Zuhdi al-Tawil, 17, a high school student from the town of Kufor Aqab, was also martyred on May 24, 2021, after carrying out a stabbing attack at the “light rail” station in Sheikh Jarrah (Street No. 1).
Detaining the bodies of the martyrs
The Information Center said that the occupation authorities continue to detain the bodies of 5 Jerusalemite martyrs in refrigerators: the body of the martyr Musbah Abu Sbeih since October 2016, the body of the martyr Fadi al-Qunbar since January 2017, the martyr of the captive movement Aziz Aweisat since May 2018, in addition to the two martyrs Shaher Abu Khadija, and Zuhdi al-Tawil since last May.
The attacks and violations in Al-Aqsa Mosque did not stop during the first half of the year 2021, but escalated significantly, whether by desecrating it and turning it into a confrontation arena during the month of Ramadan, or interfering with and obstructing the restoration work, in addition to conducting a three-dimensional survey and imaging in the squares of the blessed Al-Aqsa Mosque, with photographing and scanningtools, after storming it with guards and escorts of police officers and personnel through Dung Gate.
The information center said that the most violent confrontations took place at Al-Aqsa Mosque during the last week of Ramadan, on the eve of "the calls of the alleged temple groups" to organize mass incursions on the so-called "Unification Day of Jerusalem", which is the anniversary of the occupation of the eastern part of the city according to the Hebrew calendar, so thousands confronted them by being stationed in Al-Aqsa, and they prevented the storming of it in the morning "during the period of incursions", as well as the "annual march of flags" that is organized in the streets of Jerusalem.
The center added that the occupation forces stormed Al-Aqsa during the first half of this year 7 times during the months of May and June. In the month of May, the incursions into Al-Aqsa continued, especially during the Night and Al-Taraweeh prayers, or after the Dawn prayer. The forces attacked the worshipers with gas and sound grenade, rubber bullets, beating with batons and pushing, and they evacuated most of the worshipers by force in several occasions. Hundreds of injuries were recorded including critical injuries, as well as cases of direct injuries to the eyes, or injuries to the head and face.
The gates of Al-Aqsa from the outside, especially the "Lions Gate, Al-Majles Gate, and King Faisal Gate", witnessed attacks on worshipers while they were heading into Al-Aqsa during Ramadan.
In an unprecedented violation, the occupation forces, at the beginning of the month of Ramadan, stormed the minarets of Al-Aqsa Mosque “Lions Gate, Al-Silsileh Gate, Al-Ghawanmeh Gate, and Dung Gate” by force, and cut the main speaker wires, coinciding with the Night and Al-Taraweeh prayers, to secure the settlers’ celebrations in Al-Buraq Square. The call to prayer was made and the Night and Al-Taraweeh prayers were performed using the internal loudspeakers of Al-Aqsa Mosque only.
In addition, violations and attempts to impose control over the mosque continued, with daily police presence at the gates of Al-Aqsa, erecting iron barriers, holding worshipers’ identities and often subjecting them to searches before entering Al-Aqsa, in addition to carrying out arrests from the squares, and allowing settlers to carry out daily incursions into Al-Aqsa – with the exception of Friday and Saturday - through Dung Gate, whose keys have been controlled by the occupation authorities since the occupation of Jerusalem.
During the first three months of this year, the occupation authorities arrested and expelled West Bank residents and prevented them from reaching Al-Aqsa, especially on Fridays, and deliberately deported them by buses and private vehicles to the military checkpoints set up at the entrances to the city, after holding them for several hours.
During the first half of 2021, the settlers’ attacks on Jerusalemites and their property increased in more severe ways, and these attacks escalated during the month of May, using bullets. Injuries with bullets were recorded: one young man was hit by a bullet from the back which exited from the abdomen, and another bullet caused fractures to another young man, both of whom were from Shu’fat, and a bullet wound to the foot of a young man was recorded in Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood, in addition to settlers shooting at houses in Wadi Hilweh neighborhood in Silwan.
A young man was stabbed with knives while working in West Jerusalem, and a young man from Issawiya sustained fractures and bruises after dozens of settlers attacked him with stones and empty bottles while walking in the "French Hill" area in Jerusalem. Also, dozens of settlers attacked a young man from Wadi Al-Joz while working in the area of “Mea Shearim” in Jerusalem, while driving his vehicle, after surrounding him and opening the vehicle’s doors trying to suffocate him. A boy from Shu’fat refugee camp was also injured in the face while he was inside his vehicle by throwing stones at him in Street No. 1.
The settlers attacked a number of monks of the Armenian Patriarchate in the Old City, near the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, injuring one of the monks in the eye. Earlier this year, the settlers attacked the monastery of the Roman Church in Jerusalem, several times, by setting fire to one of its doors and carrying out acts of sabotage.
The Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood and the nearby streets have witnessed repeated attacks by throwing stones, during the past two months, at parked Palestinian vehicles and buses or while they were driving in the streets. Several attacks by settlers on bus drivers belonging to Israeli companies while on duty were also recorded.
Within the scene of Judaization and settlement in the city of Jerusalem, 3 residential buildings and a plot of land in the Central Neighborhood in Silwan were leaked in April to the Ateret Cohanim Settlement Association.
The march of the flags…and a press conference for a Knesset member
In a provocative move, on June 10, extremist Knesset member Itamar Ben Gavir stormed the Damascus Gate area and held a press conference, while raising the Israeli flag. Dozens of Jerusalemites confronted him and were beaten, arrested and repressed.
The decision to allow the organization of the flags march was one of the last decisions of the occupation government headed by Benjamin Netanyahu, to be held in mid-June, after it was scheduled at the beginning of May, but it was canceled after the Jerusalemites confronted it and considered it the spark that ignited the war on the Gaza Strip and ended on 21/5/21.
To secure the march, the occupation forces turned the city of Jerusalem into a military zone, by deploying hundreds of its members in its streets and neighborhoods, closing some roads and preventing entry to them, especially those leading to Damascus Gate. The settlers’ march began from Street No. 1, and as soon as they reached Damascus Gate area, they began provoking Jerusalemites by insulting the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, chanting racist slogans "Death to the Arabs…there is no Palestine…leave"...in addition to throwing bottles and spraying water and juice towards Jerusalemites and press crews.
Despite the repression, eviction and prosecution, the Palestinians confronted the march, while confrontations erupted in all the streets of Jerusalem, rejecting it.
Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood
The residents of Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood are still under threat of deportation after the occupation courts refused to appeal the decisions to evict 7 families from the neighborhood. They are awaiting a hearing in the Supreme Court scheduled on August 2nd.
On the ground, the occupation authorities continue to besiege the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood, by setting up checkpoints and placing barriers, especially at the entrance to "Karam al-Jaouni", where the houses are threatened with eviction, to prevent access to the street and to hold solidarity activities that reject the eviction decisions.
The first half of this year witnessed unprecedented arrests in Jerusalem, especially during the months of May and June, the largest number of which were field arrests, during the confrontations of Al-Aqsa, Damascus Gate and Sheikh Jarrah.
Wadi Hilweh Information Center - Jerusalem has monitored 1,699 arrests, including 5 children "less than the age of responsibility - under 12 years old", 85 females, including 15 female minors, and 394 boys.
The center explained that all detainees were severely beaten during the arrest process, especially inside the observation rooms set up at the entrances to Damascus Gate Square, where the soldiers deliberately hit them on the head, face and back using sticks, punches, kicks with feet and helmets, spraying them with gas and electrocuting them, and many detainees were transferred from the investigation centers to hospitals because of their partial fainting, severe pain, and high blood pressure. Some of them had broken noses, bruises, fractures in the hands, and swollen heads.
As part of the policy of collective punishment against the prisoners and freed prisoners, the occupation authorities cut off the right to “national health insurance” for 19 Palestinians and their families, including 3 prisoners in prison and the wife of a Palestinian prisoner, and the rest are from the freed prisoners.
The occupation authorities transferred 17 Palestinians from Jerusalem to administrative detention, as the month of May witnessed an escalation in the number of administrative detention decisions.
The occupation authorities escalated the decisions of deportations from Jerusalem, Al-Aqsa and the Old City of Jerusalem. During the first half of this year, the center monitored 365 deportation decisions, including 257 expulsion decisions from Al-Aqsa, 18 from Jerusalem, 68 from the Old City of Jerusalem, and 4 decisions preventing Jerusalemites from entering the West Bank.
The center indicated that 40 females, including minors, and 37 boys had been issued deportation orders against them.
The center added that the occupation authorities issued “mass deportation decisions” from the area of Damascus Gate and the adjacent areas, and the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood. The occupation police or courts issued decisions against most of those arrested from the aforementioned areas to deport them for periods ranging from 3 to 40 days.
The courts also issued decisions to deport people from their place of residence, including the areas of Jabal Al-Mukabber, Al-Tur, Issawiya, Wadi Al-Joz, and Silwan.
The occupation municipality continued the policy of demolishing facilities in Jerusalem, including “homes, shops, agricultural and animal facilities”, under the pretext of building without a permit at a time when the municipality imposes impossible conditions and huge amounts of licensing procedures, which extend for many years.
The occupation municipality also forced the Jerusalemites to implement demolition orders by themselves, "self-demolition", after threatening to impose heavy fines in addition to forcing them to pay demolition fees to the municipality's staff and the accompanying occupation forces.
Wadi Hilweh Information Center - Jerusalem, monitored the demolition of 79 facilities in Jerusalem, 42 of which were demolished by their owners. The facilities included “buildings, houses, building foundations, residential rooms, agricultural rooms, residential and agricultural facilities, containers, counters, stores. The demolitions were concentrated in Silwan, followed by Jabal Al-Mukabber.
In a related context, the occupation municipality rejected, in March, the engineering plans for the Al-Bustan neighborhood in Silwan, and the court ordered not to extend the freeze on the demolition decisions of the neighborhood’s homes, and annulled previous agreements with the teams of engineers, lawyers and the neighborhood committee, which had frozen demolition decisions for years, during which residents worked to submit and develop plans as the municipality demanded. This means, the threat to demolish more than 100 homes housing more than 1,550 residents.
Suppression of events
The occupation authorities continued to suppress various activities in the city of Jerusalem, as they banned the “Mother’s Day Exhibition and Bazaar” and the “Our Identity is Our Heritage” exhibition on the occasion of Women’s International Day, prevented a cultural and entertainment event in the “Abna’ al-Quds” club in the Old City, and banned “Our Village Marathon” in Lifta and Qaluniya villages, and preventing the establishment of the popular bazaar in the Beit Hanina Association.
The occupation authorities also prevented the holding of conferences for the candidates of the city of Jerusalem for the elections of the Palestinian Legislative Council.