The Historical walled city of Jerusalem is in again in a midst of a raging crisis. To understand the present scenario that is fast unfolding and snowballing into a major conflict between Israel and Palestine, we need to understand the geography of the city. The city of Jerusalem is predominantly divided into 4 different blocks- Jewish block, Muslim block which houses the Masjid Al-Aqsa as referred to by Muslims and as Temple Mount as referred to by the Jews. This predominantly Arab neighbourhood was ‘annexed’ by Israel during the 6 day war or as Israel puts it- was rightfully united with the rest of Jerusalem that has for ages been the epicentre of Jewish Civilisation. The remaining two quarters are the Christian and the Armenian quarters.
Since the ‘annexation’ of East Jerusalem( The Muslim Neighbourhood) by Israel there have been long standing ownership cases that have time and again sparked of violent clashes led by Palestinians who are fully backed by the Hamas- The designated Terror group that operates out of the contested Ġaza Strip.
A land ownership case pertaining to the predominantly Arabic neighbourhood of Sheik Jarrah of which the judgment was due on May 10th once again led to clashes between the Israeli police and the Palestinians. The Palestinians argue that the ruling could well mean several Palestinian families evicted from their homes. The ruling in the wake of the violent protests have been deferred according to a latest statement by the Israel’s Justice Ministry.
The Al-Aqsa Connection-
The Masjid Al- Aqsa or Haram esh Sharif (The Noble sanctuary) is the third most holiest site according to Islam. Muslims believe that Prophet Muhammed ‘ascended’ to heaven from here. Though it is officially under the Israeli Govt. – the Jurisdiction of the Masjid is under the Jordanian Waqf. It is also the Holiest site for Jews who are allowed to visit it but prayers by Jews and other Non-Muslims is prohibited inside the complex.
The 35 acre complex has been a hotbed of several clashes in the past and with possible eviction in the Ownership case pertaining to the neighbourhood of Sheik Jarrah tensions have been simmering for a while which reached a crescendo during last week. Israeli police which secures and mans the entire complex anticipating large scale violence had restricted access to the area after clashes broke out in the neighbourhood.
Rampant Stone throwing and rioting was reported from Al Aqsa compound on Friday as mark of ‘protest’ against the forced evictions from Sheik Jarrah with heavy stone pelting the riot police forced their way to disperse the crowd using sten grenades and rubber bullets. When situation spiralled out of hand the police broke into the Al Aqsa mosque which angered the Muslim ‘Ummah’ around the world that have accused the Israel of defiling a holy place in the month of Ramadan.
However Israelis and independent researchers observed that since a very long time Al-Aqsa was used as a ‘cover’ whenever such law and order issues arose and ‘defiling’ of place was beyond question.
Things took a drastic turn for the worse when Hamas fired over 200 rockets from the Gaza strip into Central and Southern Israel predominantly directed towards Tel Aviv, these attacks have led to the death of 5 citizens and an Indian living in Israel. Dramatic scenes of Israelis running into bomb shelters have emerged on the Social Media. The Iron dome intercepted many missiles that have been fired by Ġaza. The Israeli defence forces have since them launched the ‘Operation Guardian of Walls’ which is the biggest Air Strikes since 2014. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has reported that the Israeli missiles have taken down several important hideouts of ṭop Hamas leadership and pounded the building that was supposed to be the HQ of Hamas for military research and intelligence.
PM Netanyahu was quoted saying – ‘..this campaign will take time. With determination, unity and strength we will restore security to the citizens of Israel.’
With unremitting fire from Hamas and a determined fightback by Israel the world watches the sudden military escalation in the Middle East after the much touted Abraham Accords.