Israel braces for weekend violence after spate of shootings, eviction protests

Israel braces for weekend violence after spate of shootings, eviction protests

Israeli authorities are bracing for more violence this weekend after a recent spate of shootings and as tensions soar over the threat of eviction of dozens of Palestinians from their homes in East Jerusalem.

Israeli troops shot and killed two Palestinians and seriously injured a third after opening fire with makeshift machine guns at a base in the occupied West Bank on Friday morning, Israeli police said. No Israelis were injured.

It came two days after Israeli student Yehuda Guetta, 19, died in a hospital from injuries sustained in a drive-by shooting on Sunday while standing at a bus station near the town of Nablus in the West Bank. Two other teenagers were injured in the attack. Israeli forces arrested a Palestinian in connection with Thursday’s attack.

Meanwhile, Saeed Yusuf Muhammad Oudeh, a 16-year-old Palestinian boy, was killed Wednesday in a village near Nablus.

Israeli police arrested a Palestinian protester on Wednesday amid continuing tensions over a land dispute in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood in east Jerusalem. Ammar Awad / Reuters

The IDF said troops opened fire when attacked with firebombs, but Defense for Children International – Palestine, a rights group, said Saeed was not involved in the confrontation. . The teenager was shot twice in the back, he said.

Meanwhile, in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of east Jerusalem, tensions are high over a long-standing court case involving the homes of four Palestinian families on land claimed by Jewish settlers, which is due to be heard on Monday. by the Supreme Court of Israel.

Palestinian families have lived in the area for decades, but settler groups claim that the land the houses were built on originally belonged to Jewish organizations before 1948, when fighting divided Jerusalem into east and west.

Israel seized East Jerusalem, as well as the West Bank and Gaza – territories the Palestinians want for their future state – in the 1967 Arab-Israeli War. Israel annexed East Jerusalem in a move unrecognized internationally and considers the whole city as its capital.

Download the NBC News app for the latest news and politics

But Palestinians regard East Jerusalem – which includes major holy sites for Jews, Christians and Muslims – as their capital, and its fate is one of the conflict’s most sensitive issues.

A law passed by the Israeli parliament in 1970 authorizes the recovery of property previously owned by the Jewish people in East Jerusalem, although Palestinians do not have this right to recover property in West Jerusalem.

The four Palestinian families of Sheikh Jarrah face imminent eviction on the basis of this law, and several attempts at mediation have failed. Israel’s Supreme Court is due to hold a hearing on Monday and may issue a final deportation order, a decision that could set a precedent affecting other families.

Yacoub Abu Arafa, 59, said he was born in the house he could be forced to leave and that his family had been fighting in court for almost half a century to keep their home.

“We got old and tired,” he told NBC News. “I don’t know what will happen with us if they evict families from homes.”

Palestinians protesting the case have clashed with Israeli police in the city every night since the start of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

Activists say the legal battle in Sheikh Jarrah is part of a systematic effort by settler groups to change the demographics of East Jerusalem by displacing Palestinians and displacing Israelis in the area.

Rupert Colville, a spokesperson for the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, said on Friday that the expulsions “if ordered and implemented would violate Israel’s obligations under international law.”

“We call on Israel to immediately end all forced evictions, including those of Sheikh Jarrah, and to cease any activity that would further contribute to a coercive environment and lead to a risk of forcible transfer,” he said. .

Protesters also clashed with Israeli police over restrictions on outdoor gatherings at the Damascus Gate leading to the Old City.

Sunday evening is “Laylat al-Qadr” or the “Night of Fate”, the holiest of the month of Ramadan, and devotees will gather for intense nightly prayers in the grounds of Al-Aqsa Mosque in the old city of Jerusalem, a sacred site. to Muslims and Jews, who call it the Temple Mount.

Protesters express their support for Palestinian families facing Israeli deportation orders in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood in east Jerusalem on Tuesday.Abbas Momani / AFP – Getty Images

Jerusalem Day, a national holiday on which Israel celebrates its annexation of East Jerusalem and religious nationalists hold parades and other celebrations in the city, also begins Sunday evening.

The two events have coincided in recent years, sometimes leading to clashes.

The ruling Hamas in Gaza, considered a terrorist organization by the United States and the European Union, has encouraged violence in recent days and Palestinian militants in Gaza have fired rockets to support the protesters.

Earlier this week, the commander of the armed wing of Hamas, Mohammed Deif, issued his first public statement in seven years, in which he warned Israel that it would pay a “heavy price” if it expelled the Palestinians from their homes. houses.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.