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20 Palestinians, 1 Israeli wounded in fresh clashes at East Jerusalem flashpoint

4 Palestinians arrested as stones, firebombs thrown at Jewish homes in Sheikh Jarrah; police use batons, tear gas, ‘skunk’ water cannons, sponge-tipped bullets to disperse protest

A Palestinian demonstrator is arrested by Israeli security forces during protests in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of  in the Sheikh Jarrah on June 21, 2021. (Photo by AHMAD GHARABLI / AFP)
A Palestinian demonstrator is arrested by Israeli security forces during protests in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of in the Sheikh Jarrah on June 21, 2021. (Photo by AHMAD GHARABLI / AFP)

Palestinian protesters and Jewish residents clashed late Monday in a volatile East Jerusalem neighborhood before police moved in to disperse the Palestinians, wounding at least 20.

Jewish residents of the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood said protesters threw stones and Molotov cocktails at Jewish homes, lightly wounding a pregnant woman who was hit in the back with a stone.

The neighborhood has been the scene of frequent clashes in recent weeks over the impending eviction of Palestinian families. The violence has also spilled over into wider conflict in Jerusalem and beyond. The Hamas terror group in the Gaza Strip used the clashes as a pretext to fire rockets at Jerusalem in May, sparking an 11-day conflict with Israel.

After the protesters attacked a Jewish home, residents responded with rocks and pepper spray and a brawl broke out.

Police then used riot dispersal munitions, including batons, tear gas, “skunk” water cannons and sponge-tipped bullets, to disperse the protesters.

The Palestinian Red Crescent said 20 Palestinians were treated, including three for pepper spray, 13 for tear gas inhalation, two who were hit by sponge-tipped bullets, and two with wounds caused by batons.

The rescue service also accused Jewish residents of stoning an ambulance.

Israeli Border Guards in the east Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah on June 21, 2021, during clashes between Israelis and Palestinians. (Photo by AHMAD GHARABLI / AFP)

The Israel Police said Tuesday morning that four Palestinians were arrested, one for shooting fireworks at police forces and Jewish homes and the rest for “causing unrest.”

The land in question was owned by Jews before the 1948-49 Independence War, when it was seized by Jordan and leased to Palestinian families. After Israel captured the area in the 1967 war, a 1970 Israeli law transferred all abandoned properties still held by the Jordanian government, including the Sheikh Jarrah homes, to the custody of the Israeli government. The law further obligated the release of properties to original owners when possible. The Jewish trusts that had owned the site appealed for its return to their hands, sparking a five-decade legal battle between the trusts and the Palestinian residents.

Israel says the issue is a private property dispute to be adjudicated by the courts. Palestinian residents argue that the demand to reclaim the site is part of a campaign by Israeli settlement groups to displace them and replace their community with a Jewish one.

Israeli security forces spray Palestinian protesters with “skunk” water in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah on June 21, 2021, during clashes between Israelis and Palestinians.(AHMAD GHARABLI / AFP)

According to Ir Amim, a left-wing human rights group focusing on Jerusalem, around 200 families in East Jerusalem are under similar threat of eviction, with cases slowly moving through administrative bodies and Israeli courts.

Palestinians and members of the international community accuse Israel of seeking to “Judaize” East Jerusalem by slowly evicting hundreds of Arab families and replacing them with Jewish ones. Israel maintains that East Jerusalem is a part of its undivided capital and that the Jews moving into neighborhoods there do so legally.

Recent days have seen frequent clashes amid fears of renewed fighting with Hamas over the situation in the Holy City.

On Friday there were clashes during prayers at the Al-Aqsa Mosque on the Temple Mount compound. Palestinian worshipers could be seen raising the Palestinian flag following the Friday prayers. The clashes occurred after the Israel Defense Forces conducted airstrikes on Hamas targets throughout the Gaza Strip on Thursday night in response to ongoing arson attacks from the enclave.

* This article was updated on June 24, 2021 to include a more detailed summation of the legal background to the Sheikh Jarrah dispute.

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