For the last 100 years, the country which used to be known as Palestine, and is now largely recognised as Israel, has been the site of huge amounts of religious conflict. This year, the conflict has become the most violent it’s been since 2014, at the end of the war in Gaza. But why? What’s happening in Jerusalem? Here’s what you need to know.
A century of conflict
In the early 20th century, Jewish families fled Western Europe and the prosecution of the Nazis. A large number of the families found homes in what was then called Palestine. They claimed the land as their new homeland, causing conflict with the Islamic communities already settled and existing in the country. Eventually, thousands of Palestinians fled the country or were forced out in what is known as ‘The Catastophe’.
Since then, there has been ongoing conflict and war, with the Israeli government pushing back the Palestinian militants, causing the ratio of population to go from majority Arab to majority Jewish. Both groups seek to keep the country due to its importance in both religions, housing numerous religious monuments for both Jewish people and Muslims.
What happened recently?
Following Ramadan, which began mid-April, Muslims living in the Old City went to pray at the al-Asqa mosque. When on the stairs outside, they were met with violence from Israeli forces. The Israeli police fired rubber bullets, tear gas and stun grenades. This then continued into clashes between the Israeli police, Palestinian protesters and far-right Jewish Israeli citizens.
The city was continuously tense in preparation for the controversial Jerusalem Day march by nationalist Jewish Israelis, which was set to pass through Palestinian neighbourhoods. On top of this, there have been tensions regarding Israeli restrictions on nightly gatherings after Ramadan fast, and there was due to be a Supreme Court decision made on a bill that would expel Palestinian citizens from their homes.
On the same day, Hamas, an Islamic group, said that they would fire rockets if Israeli settlers did not withdraw from al-Aqsa mosque and Sheikh Jarrah, a Palestinian neighbourhood that has been facing evictions after years of battling with Israeli settlers.
How did this develop into deaths, rockets and airstrikes?
On Monday evening, after their warning, Hamas fired rockets towards Jerusalem and southern Israel. Israel followed up with airstrikes that continued into Tuesday. This to and fro continued throughout the week, with office buildings, suburbs and other key points being targeted on both sides.
In total, 72 people have died, and some 400 plus have been injured. Among the dead are four senior Hamas commanders, and a dozen or so HAmas operatives.
Will this develop into war?
We cannot know for certain, but Israeli’s military is reportedly drafting plans for ground operations in Gaza. This comes as more racist mob attacks spread throughout the country, with PAlestinian citizens clashing with police and Jewish mobs searching for Arabs.
These plans will be shown to the military heads on Thursday, who will then consider whether or not to allow them to go ahead. The plans come after Israeli officials rejected Hamas’ proposal for a ceasefire, wherein Hamas officials had said that they were ready to halt attacks on a ‘mutual basis’.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has called on both parties’ citizens to cease attacks on one another, he said: ‘it doesn’t matter to me that your blood is boiling. You can’t take the law in your hands’, despite earlier having said that he would restore order with an ‘iron fist’. Alternatively, public security minister Amir Ohana has appeared to encourage the violence.
People all over the internet, on social media and media outlets, as well as prominent politicians and the UN itself have called for an end to the violence. The UN has specifically called for peace, telling both nations to come to a ceasefire.
Alternatively, nations such as the United States, whose previous administrations have recognised Israel as a nation, have stood up for the country. President Joe Biden said that the Israeli government has ‘a right to protect itself’.