Conflict Alerts # 501, 20 April 2022
In the news
On 15 April, violence broke out in the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem. Israel’s police to quell violence stormed the mosque with rubber bullets, tear gas, and stun grenades. Among the Muslims who were gathered to offer morning prayers in the mosque, 158 people were reported to be injured and one 17-year-old died due to injuries. After the clashes, Israel’s prime minister Naftali Bennett said: “We are working to restore calm, on the Temple Mount and across Israel. Alongside that, we are preparing for any scenario and the security forces are ready for any task.”
On 15 April, the protests broke out in the Gaza strip demanding justice for the wounded Palestinians. The Palestinian foreign ministry condemned Israel’s actions in the compound and stated: “holds Israel fully and directly responsible for this crime and its consequences.” At the same, Palestine’s prime minister Mohammad Shtayyeh on the Israeli police strike said: “brutal assault on worshippers during the holy month.”
The attacks come during the holy week of Passover for the Jews, Easter for Christians, and Ramadan for Muslims. As a result, all three communities gather in the Old City to offer their worship throughout the week. The Israeli attack comes in direct retaliation to masked youth radicals who were recorded throwing stones toward the Western Wall compound, below the Al-Aqsa Mosque where Jewish worshippers were gathered.
Issues at large
First, Jerusalem as a flashpoint. Israel views Jerusalem as its “unified, eternal” capital. Its annexation of East Jerusalem is not recognized internationally and is considered provocative by Palestinians. Jerusalem, particularly the Old City contains some of the holiest sites for Islam and Judaism. The Al-Aqsa mosque is the third holiest site in Islam and the Temple Mount of which only the Western Wall is remaining is the holiest site where Jews can pray. After the disagreement over the annexation, Palestinians view the visits by Jewish worshippers as a provocation.
Second, the volatility of the season. The holy week of Passover and Ramadan coinciding this year has attracted worshippers in mass numbers to the Old City. Tensions due to being nearby has paved way for violence. A similar incident in 2021 during the same period of Ramadan resulted in an 11-day war and 250 Palestinians killed. When religious sentiments run hot in Jerusalem, it quickly results in violence.
Third, the recurring pattern in violence. There have been multiple attempts in the history of the Al-Aqsa mosque owing to its historic significance. The custody of the mosque is administered by a Waqf or an Islamic trust that is funded and controlled by Jordan and Israel after a peace treaty in 1994. The agreement does not allow Jews to pray in the Al-Aqsa compound but can pray near the Western Wall. However, since the agreement was signed the compound has been party to several controversies that led to violence. The primary reason for these controversies is the preservation of religious monuments and sentiments by disallowing another religion’s claims. This pattern is observed in the recent raids as well.
Fourth, the trigger for violence. The anti-discriminatory policies in Jerusalem have added to the frustration of the Palestinian youth. The unfair citizenship rights, evacuations of Palestinians, encroachment of settlements, and human rights violations have resulted in an angry generation of youth. As a result, the youth have utilized this opportunity to express their dissatisfaction. Violence becomes a default measure for the people when there is a lack of unity and diplomacy with the governments.
First, the cause of wider unrest. The incident has resulted in wider outrage and unrest across Palestine. The action by the Palestinian youth triggered a reaction by the Israeli security force. At the Gaza demonstration which is the first wave of unrest, attacks by the Israeli force were denounced. The unrest is likely to spread to other parts of Palestine.
Second, the possibility of prolongation of the conflict. Recent precedents show that there is a strong possibility for the conflict to prolongate and expand. Israel and Palestine are preparing for any form of escalation. The ripple effect of one small incident that can otherwise be resolved through the Police, has escalated into a religious and political issue.