CPI on East Jerusalem Unrest: Netanyahu Seeking a Religious War

Tensions were running high in occupied East Jerusalem on Friday, July 21, as thousands of Palestinians marched towards the Old City to denounce increased Israeli security measures at the al-Aqsa Mosque compound, which the cabinet decided to maintain earlier in the day, despite recommendations from the state’s own security agencies. Several Joint List MKs participated in the demonstration.

Israeli Border Police confront Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem on Thursday night, July 20.

Israeli Border Police confront Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem on Thursday night, July 20. (Photo: Al Ittihad)

During the past week, Muslim worshipers have been protesting, sometimes violently, in the Old City, refusing to enter and pray at the al-Aqsa Mosque on al-Haram al-Sharif (the Temple Mount) until the removal of metal detectors installed there by the Israel Police nearly a week ago, following an early morning attack in which three armed assailants shot and killed two Arab-Druze Israeli policemen guarding the entrance to the compound last Friday, July 14.

Following a visit this week to Jerusalem’s Old City, Joint List MK Aida Touma-Sliman (Hadash) said: “The right-wing government is seeking to escalate the situation. The drastic steps it is taking are unprecedented and gravely harm the way of life of Palestinian residents of the occupied city of East Jerusalem.”

The Toll of Repression and Violence

In the wake of the latest events surrounding the al-Aqsa Mosque, on Friday, July 21, a Palestinian teenager was shot in the neck and mortally wounded by an Israeli settler during clashes in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Ras al-Amoud. The dead youth was identified as 17-year-old Muhammad Mahmoud Sharaf from the neighborhood of Silwan. Another Palestinian, identified by medical sources as Muhammad Abu Ghanam, succumbed to his wounds in al-Makassed hospital after being shot by Israeli police forces during clashes in al-Tur. Witnesses said that Israeli forces raided the hospital on Friday afternoon looking to detain Palestinians who were injured during the clashes.

According to the Palestinian Red Crescent, at least eight worshipers were wounded on Salah al-Din Street, just north of Jerusalem’s Old city, when hit by rubber-coated steel bullets fired by Israeli security forces on Friday. Scores of others suffered from tear gas inhalation. The health organization later said that a Palestinian was in critical condition after having been shot in the eye, while another had been hit in the face by a tear gas canister, adding that both had been transferred to a hospital for treatment. This was only the latest wave of violence as a Red Crescent spokesperson had earlier reported that Israeli forces in the Old City injured at least 79 demonstrators on Thursday night, July 20, while Israeli police conducted raids there, detaining a number of Palestinian political figures and activists.

A statement issued by the Communist Party of Israel (CPI) and Hadash – the Democratic Front for Peace and Equality – said: “The measures at al-Aqsa are the latest example of Israel’s far-right government using Israeli-Palestinian violence and tensions as a means of furthering control over important sites in the Occupied Palestinian Territories and normalizing heightened measures by Israeli forces targeting Palestinians. The Netanyahu government is looking for a religious war.”