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Israeli police clash with Palestinians

Israeli police clash with Palestinians

Palestinians carry the body of Mohamad Abu Saleh, 17, after he was killed during clashes with Israeli forces in the occupied West Bank village Al Yamun, near Jenin, Palestinian territories on February 14, 2022. Photo: AFP

Israeli police clashed with Palestinians in the flash point east Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah on Sunday during a visit by a controversial far-right Jewish lawmaker that inflamed tensions.

Police used water cannon and said they arrested 12 people for “public riots and violence,” including hurling stones and firing flares, in the area of annexed east Jerusalem that has emerged as a symbol of Palestinian resistance against Israeli control of the city.

Tensions that erupted in the area in 2021 in part sparked the May war between Israel and armed groups in the Gaza Strip.

Scuffles had broken out Sunday as Itamar Ben Gvir of the far-right Religious Zionism alliance set up a tent “office” in Sheikh Jarrah, in what he described as an effort to show support for its Jewish residents.

More than 200,000 Jewish settlers live in east Jerusalem, in communities widely regarded as illegal under international law.

Efforts by settler groups to expand the Jewish presence in east Jerusalem, which Palestinians claim as their future capital, have further fueled hostilities.

The Red Crescent said that 31 Palestinians including a child were wounded in Sunday’s clashes with security forces, with six people taken to hospital, while an AFP reporter said one police officer was hurt. The 17-year-old child, Mohammed Abu Salah, was later confirmed dead.

Ben Gvir, a Jewish nationalist with a long history of incendiary comments about Palestinians, accused police of failing to react to alleged arson attacks on a settler home in Sheikh Jarrah. “Jewish lives have become worthless,” Ben Gvir charged in a tweet before his visit.

He told reporters in Sheikh Jarrah, where he set up his “makeshift office,” that he would remain there until police “looked after the security of the [Jewish] residents.” In a move that risked sparking fresh hostilities, Ben Gvir urged supporters to gather in the area.

Palestinians were also called on to mobilize, while a group of Jewish Israelis that oppose Ben Gvir circulated a petition online urging people to head to Sheikh Jarrah as a show of support for its Arab residents.

Crowds of Israelis stood by Ben Gvir, chanting “death to terrorists” late Sunday, with a scuffle breaking out between Arieh King, Jerusalem’s far-right deputy mayor, and Ahmad Tibi, a member of parliament from the Arab Joint List who came to support the Palestinian families.

Ben Gvir later accused police of violently dismantling his “makeshift office,” vowing nevertheless to “sleep here tonight.”

Voicing concern over Sunday’s “violent clashes,” the European Union in a tweet said that “irresponsible provocations and other escalatory acts in this sensitive area only fuel further tensions & must cease.”

The Palestinian Authority, based in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, condemned Ben Gvir’s “provocative and escalating move that threatens to ignite… violence that will be difficult to control.”