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Palestinians Choose Defiance as Israel Plays for Time

Palestinians Choose Defiance as Israel Plays for Time

Sunday, 9 May, 2021 - 13:45
Palestinians pray on Laylat al-Qadr (Night of Destiny) outside the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem's Al-Aqsa Mosque compound during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan on May 8, 2021 | AFP

Adnan, a Palestinian from east Jerusalem, vowed rubber bullets fired by Israeli police would not deter him: "Silence is not an option" in defense of Arabs in the Holy City, he said.

East Jerusalem, the majority Palestinian part of the city annexed by Israel in 1967, has been hit by some of its worst unrest in years.

Hundreds of Palestinians have been wounded and dozens arrested in confrontations with police who have been hit with stones and other projectiles hurled by mainly young and male Palestinian protesters, who have also torched cars and dumpsters.

Friday night saw violent clashes following evening Ramadan prayers at the Al-Aqsa mosque compound, Islam's third holiest site, a flashpoint area also sacred to Jews -- who call it the Temple Mount -- where tensions trigger swift global alarm.

For 20 year-old-Adnan, who like many Palestinians in east Jerusalem refused to give his name for fear of Israeli police retribution, protesters are responding to what he said was as a persistent effort by Jewish settlers to expel them from the city.

"We are here, in the street, to say that we are not going leave," he told AFP.

"For years, settlers have attacked us and taken our land but silence is no longer an option."

- 'Don't want us to live here' -

Several events have triggered the flare up in east Jerusalem, which Palestinians claim as the capital of their future state.

Protester Mohammed, who also refused to give his last name, argued each incident is linked to an unavoidable reality facing Palestinians in the city.

"The Israelis want us to work for them, but they don't want us to live here," he said.

Earlier this year, an Israeli court ruled in favour of Jewish settlers seeking to evict Palestinian families from their homes in the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood, just north of the Old City.

The court said the Jewish families had proven a decades-old claim to the land, infuriating Palestinians and triggering months of protests that have intensified in recent nights.

Other incidents have fanned the flames.

Last month, Israeli police closed the staired plaza outside the Old City's Damascus Gate, a traditional gathering spot for Palestinians following evening Ramadan evening prayers.

The closure triggered violent clashes with police who removed the barricades after several nights of unrest.

Next came the clashes at the Al-Aqsa plaza following Ramadan's final Friday prayers, which wounded more than 200 people.

Police said they were responding to projectiles hurled by "thousands" of rioters.

Mohammed said he was among thousands of people at Al-Aqsa who were breaking the fast, eating a date and drinking water, "when the police starting attacking us".

Prayers at Al-Aqsa on Saturday for Laylat al-Qadr (Night of Destiny), a peak of Ramadan believed to be the night when the Koran was revealed to the Prophet Mohammed, were largely peacefully.

But unrest persisted in Sheikh Jarrah, where hostilities could heighten further in the days ahead depending on the Supreme Court's next moves.

Israel’s attorney-general secured a deferment on Sunday of a court hearing on planned evictions of Palestinians in Jerusalem, a session that had threatened to stoke more violence in the holy city and heighten international concern.

The government could now have some breathing room to try to defuse a tinderbox situation in Jerusalem, where the court case and friction during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan have led to clashes between Palestinians and Israeli police.

Israel's attorney-general asked the Supreme Court on Sunday to postpone a hearing on planned evictions of Palestinians from homes in the flashpoint East Jerusalem neighborhood, a Justice Ministry spokesman said.

The session had been scheduled for Monday amid mounting violence and international concern over the evictions issue in the contested city. Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit asked

the court for a deferral of at least two weeks so he might weigh taking part in the case, the spokesman said.

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