IMAGE BY: Klassic Kowal
A deadly occupation that has spanned over 70 years and is woven with settler colonialism, ethnic cleansing, and violence has boiled to a head once again.
On May 7th, Palestinians began protesting in Jerusalem in response to a pending Israeli court decision. The verdict would allow Israeli landlords, who claim that Palestinian residents have not paid their dues, to evict over a dozen Palestinian families (totaling up to 58 people including 17 children) in Sheikh Jarrah. The residents of Sheikh Jarrah are descendants of Palestinian refugees who were displaced following the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. In 1956, 28 refugees families from Nakba were in agreement with Jordan and the UN to receive housing in Sheikh Jarrah. An article by Anadolu Agency reads
“According to the Civic Coalition for Palestinian Rights in Jerusalem (CCPRJ), the Jordanian government provided the land while UNRWA covered the cost for constructing 28 homes for these families.
‘A contract was concluded between the Ministry of Construction and Reconstruction and Palestinian families in 1956, with one of the main conditions stating that the residents pay a symbolic fee, provided that ownership is transferred to the residents after three years from the completion of construction,’ the CCPRJ said in a statement.
This, however, was interrupted by the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, including Jerusalem, in 1967 which prevented the registration of the houses under the names of families, the statement said.”
The Israeli government has stated that Israeli landlords are well within their bounds to evict Palestinian residents.
On the final Friday of Ramadan, thousands of Palestinian worshippers gathered at the Al-Aqsa Mosque. After the evening prayer, many remained to protest the eviction cases. As the protests continued, police officers stormed the mosque and began shooting metal bullets encased in rubber, skunk water, and tear gas. At least 205 Palestinians and 17 officers were injured. Additionally, police officers used excessive force to quiet protests near the homes pending eviction. This continued throughout the weekend.
On May 10th, Palestinian protesters gathered at the Al-Aqsa Mosque as Israelis celebrated Jerusalem Day. Israeli Police officers reported that Palestinian protesters threw rocks which led to them firing bullets and stun grenades.
The same day, violence reached new heights as Palestinian group HAMAS launched airstrikes from Gaza to Israel after warning them to stop occupying the Al-Aqsa Mosque. Israel soon retaliated, launching a series of airstrikes on Gaza. Reuters reports “Shortly before midnight local time, Israel’s military said Palestinian militants had fired around 150 rockets into Israel, of which dozens were intercepted by its missile defense systems.” A minimum of 20 people died, including 9 children.
Tensions continued to unfold throughout this week, with Israel carrying out multiple airstrikes in Gaza and the militant group(Hamas) firing rockets at Tel Aviv. On Tuesday, A 13-story residential building in Gaza, containing 80 apartments, collapsed after it was hit by an Israeli airstrike. IDF (Israel Defense Forces) have claimed that they only target Hamas military bases. As casualties continue to mount, they have since placed blame on Hamas, stating: “Hamas deliberately hides military targets in residential buildings and civilian areas. When we plan a target, we dedicate resources to minimize civilian harm.” This followed increased outcry from international viewers. As of Tuesday, at least 30 Palestinians were killed owing to the violence.
On Wednesday, Israel announced that they killed several senior members of HAMAS and would continue to launch missiles on their bases. The Israeli prime minister is quoted saying: “This was only the beginning. We will inflict blows on them that they have never dreamed of.”
Another high-rise collapsed in Gaza after an air strike hit the 16-story Al-Shorouk tower in the al-Rimal are.
Thursday and Friday saw no signs of de-escalation as Hamas and Israel continued to launch airstrikes. This has resulted in thousands of casualties and injuries, destruction of homes and buildings, and has left many civilians fleeing to shelters.
On Saturday, May 15th, a building that included residential apartments and offices used by the Associated Press and Al Jazeera Media Network was destroyed by an Israeli airstrike. Luckily, occupants were able to evacuate in time and no one was hurt. Earlier that day, an Israeli airstrike struck the Shati refugee camp, killing many, including 2 adult women and 8 children.
Protests continued on Saturday in the West Bank as Saturday marked Nakba Day, which commemorates the displacement of Palestinians by Israelis in 1948.
At least 197 (updated 5/16 9:45 pm EST) people have been killed since Monday.
Monday, May 17th:
A third emergency UN Security Council meeting was held concerning Israel and Palestine. And like the prior 2 meetings, it ended with inaction. It is being reported that the United States blocked the release of a joint resolution to condemn Israel’s violence and to call for a ceasefire. This comes after U.S. President Joe Biden came to the defense of Israel, citing their actions as reasonable. “The US, China, France, Russia, and United Kingdom are all permanent members of the security council, giving them veto power over joint statements. China had previously called out the US as being the sole dissenting voice on the issue.“
On Monday evening headquarters of the Hamas-run Religious Affairs Ministry became the latest target of Israeli airstrikes.
Another building collapsed, meeting its fate at the hands of Israeli airstrikes. Israel’s defense force claims that the building had been evacuated prior to the attack. As of Monday, the Gaza Health Ministry reported that at least 200 Palestinians had been killed in the strikes.
Despite halting a UN resolution, the White House releasing a briefing concerning a phone call between Joe Biden and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel. It read: “The President expressed his support for a ceasefire and discussed U.S. engagement with Egypt and other partners towards that end.”
TUESDAY, MAY 18TH:
The unfolding of the Israel-Palestine raged on into its 9th day with a new call to action. The European Union, minus Hungary, called for a ceasefire. The Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto cited the discourse surrounding the EU’s statements to be one-sided.
United States House Representative Rashida Tlaib of Michigan approached President Joe Biden regarding his inaction and support for Israel. Tlaib’s office stated that Tlaib brought up that “Palestinian human rights are not a bargaining chip and must be protected, not negotiated.”
WHAT IS HAMAS?
Hamas is a militant Palestinian Islamist group that has centralized power in Gaza. The residing President of Palestine is Mahmoud Abbas, who is of the Fatah Party.
Tensions between Fatah and Hamas have dominated Palestinian politics since 2006, when Hamas was victorious in the Palestinian Authority’s last parliamentary elections for the Palestinian Legislative Council, ending the era of Fatah’s dominance. After armed conflict between the two factions and the failure of an attempted unity government, the Palestinian leadership has been divided since 2007, with the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority governing the West Bank, and Hamas governing the Gaza Strip. Despite numerous reconciliation efforts over the past 15 years, rifts have remained. Both parties agreed in autumn 2020 to new elections, but these were postponed “indefinitely” by Abbas at the end of April.
HOW HAVE POLITICAL LEADERS RESPONDED?
On Wednesday, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas spoke about the conflict. In a speech, he said “We cannot bear any much more. We won’t have any more patience, but we will resist more and more and more, and we will be resilient more and more until we achieve the end of occupation for all occupied lands, especially Jerusalem. Peace be upon you.”
In a public speech, Hamas leader Ismail Hamas said “Jerusalem is the central axis of struggle, and we will never abandon it. We won the battle for Jerusalem; this is the first time that we managed to defeat the flag marches.”
The Prime Minister of Israeli, Benjamin Netanyahu, is quoted saying:
“We are at the height of a weighty campaign. Hamas and Islamic Jihad paid … and will pay a very heavy price for their belligerence … their blood is forfeit.” & “The party that bears the guilt for this confrontation is not us, it’s those attacking us. We are still in the midst of this operation, it is still not over and this operation will continue as long as necessary.”
President Biden of the United States has issued support for Israel, saying “Israel has a right to defend itself when you have thousands of rockets flying into your territory. My hope is that we’ll see this coming to conclusion sooner rather than later.”
CAN WE EXPECT DE-ESCALATION?
The New York Times reports that it “later clarified that statement to say ground troops were firing into Gaza from Israel.”
Despite this, the deployment of ground troops signals to what may very soon be a ground attack. The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations has stated they have been “working tirelessly” to end the conflict through diplomatic channels. However, based on the comments issued by top leadership, there will be no end in sight unless there is tangible military victory.
IS THE EVICTION CASE THE SOLE TRIGGER OR REASON FOR THE ESCALATION OF VIOLENCE?
Many see the recent discourse and protests surrounding the Sheikh Jarrah eviction case as the trigger for the increased struggle and violence. But what should come into focus and what can be seen as the cause is the underpinnings of the eviction case. The case is not merely about Sheikh Jarrah, but instead a reaction to decades of occupation and a desire for stability. Israel lays claim to much of what can be argued to be Palestine’s land as so we see a battle unfold in which Palestine seeks to rise above the colonialism that has stripped them of their rights.
Stay tuned for updates on major developments.
For more nuanced and in-depth perspectives/resources check out the links below!