Has coronavirus killed off shisha cafes forever?

Has coronavirus killed off shisha cafes forever?
A street vendor makes a hookah or smoking pipe at a roadside shop in Lahore on January 15, 2019. (AFP/File Photo)
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Updated 12 August 2020

Has coronavirus killed off shisha cafes forever?

Has coronavirus killed off shisha cafes forever?
  • Compared with non-smokers, studies show smokers overall are more likely to develop severe COVID-19 symptoms
  • WHO warning says shisha smoking could facilitate coronavirus transmission in social settings

DUBAI: The age-old, convivial practice of sharing the shisha, or the waterpipe, during an evening of conversation and laughter has long been an integral part of many cultures, including in the Middle East. But now it is facing its biggest test of survival in living memory.

The World Health Organization (WHO) says using shisha involves the sharing of mouth pieces and hoses, which could facilitate the transmission of the coronavirus in social settings. The Middle East, with its thousands of shisha cafes, is particularly vulnerable.

As the pandemic gripped the world, many countries in the region — including Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Kuwait — imposed bans on shisha use. But this practice was drawing flak even before the COVID-19 era, with health experts warning that it was even more harmful than cigarette smoking.

According to the WHO advisory on shisha, “one hour of shisha use is equal to smoking approximately 100 cigarettes. It can be less or more, depending on the many factors.”

A review of studies by public-health experts convened by WHO on April 29 found that compared with non-smokers, smokers overall are more likely to develop severe COVID-19 symptoms. It also found that smoking impairs lung function, making it harder for the body to fight off coronaviruses and other respiratory diseases.

Dr. Assem Youssef, specialist pulmonologist at Medcare Hospital in Dubai, says shisha smoke contains high levels of tar, carbon monoxide, heavy metals and cancer-causing chemicals.

It increases the risk of lung and oral cancers, heart diseases and other circulatory diseases. “Shisha use by pregnant women can result in low birth-weight babies,” Dr. Youssef told Arab News. “Shisha pipes, if not cleaned properly, may lead to serious infectious diseases.”

FASTFACT

Shisha and COVID-19

Smokers overall are more likely to develop severe COVID-19 symptoms, compared to non-smokers (WHO).

“In shishas, only the nozzle is replaced after every use,” said Dr. Rami Sukhon, a specialist in family medicine at Dubai’s Al Zahra Hospital. “When smoking the shisha, there is a risk of the particles of saliva travelling through the nozzle down to the shisha base, which is not sterilized after a smoker is done with it,” he said.

“Further, shisha cafes are usually closed spaces, especially in summer, where several people exhale large volumes of smoke through their mouths and nose into the same air – this also poses the risk of spreading the virus through droplets released into the air.”

However, more research is required to assess the exact level of risk, Dr. Sukhon said.

On the matter of e-shishas, electronic water pens which operate in the same manner as an e-cigarette, experts say these are just as harmful.

The WHO has strongly recommended their ban in public places. However, the spread of the virus through the e-shisha has a different context.

“In e-shishas, if the shisha pen is not shared between people and is not smoked within a closed room with other people, the risk of spreading the virus can be considered as being lower,” Dr. Sukhon told Arab News. “Also, the volume of smoke from a shisha pen is less than from an actual shisha.”

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E-products’ emissions typically contain nicotine and other toxic substances that are harmful to both users and non-users, who are exposed to the aerosols second-hand, say health experts. Evidence reveals that these products are particularly risky when used by children and adolescents.

“Nicotine is highly addictive and young people’s brains develop up to their mid-twenties,” said the WHO.

“Exposure to nicotine (in) children and adolescents can have long-lasting, damaging effects on brain development and there is risk of nicotine addiction. Furthermore, there is a growing body of evidence in some [cases] that minors who use (are first-time users of) e-nicotine products increase their chances of (switching to) traditional tobacco cigarettes later in life.”

Tobacco kills more than 8 million people globally every year. More than seven million of these deaths are from direct tobacco use and around 1.2 million due to non-smokers being exposed to second-hand smoke.

Does this mean the shisha is in danger of becoming a thing of the past? Dr. Sukhon believes that before countries decide on reopening shisha cafes, they need to thoroughly evaluate the risks involved.

The WHO says it is up to countries to decide on the return of the shisha cafes, adding that if countries have been successful in banning it during the pandemic, they could ban them beyond COVID-19 as well.


Shisha in history

Known by different names — huqqa, sisah or shisha, qalyan, arjilah, nargil — depending on the region, the shisha has a long and illustrious history.

The shisha is said to have its origins in India back in the 16th century. There may be references to the shisha being used in Persia before then, but scholars point to the lack of evidence of the use of the water pipe until the 1560s. Some hold that the word nargil, as the shisha was called in Persia, derives from the Sanskrit word narikela, meaning coconut, suggesting that early shisha bowls were crafted from coconut shells.

According to Fumari’s Hookah Blog, the origin of the word shisha dates back to 16th-century India when the British East India Company began exporting glass to India and India glass makers crafted hookah bowls. The device was invented to purify smoke through water in a glass base called a “shisha” (or glass).

During this period, smoking tobacco became popular in high society. Shisha then migrated to the Turkish culture and during the 18th century increased its footprint, spreading through the Middle East in the 19th century.

In Egypt, traditional forms of tobacco were reformulated into a mix called Mu’Assel (meaning with honey) by mixing honey or molasses with the tobacco. By the late 1900s, shisha had migrated to virtually every continent as immigrants brought along with them a custom to share with their new home country.

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@CalineMalek


22 killed as Israel strikes Gaza after Hamas rocket barrage

22 killed as Israel strikes Gaza after Hamas rocket barrage
Updated 11 May 2021

22 killed as Israel strikes Gaza after Hamas rocket barrage

22 killed as Israel strikes Gaza after Hamas rocket barrage
  • Nine children were among those killed in the blockaded Gaza Strip
  • Gaza militants fired more than 200 rockets toward Israel, injuring six Israeli civilians

JERUSALEM: Israel and Hamas exchanged heavy fire on Tuesday, with 22 Palestinians killed in Gaza, in a dramatic escalation between the bitter rivals sparked by unrest at Jerusalem’s flashpoint Al-Aqsa Mosque compound.
Nine children were among those killed in the blockaded Gaza Strip that is controlled by the Islamist movement and 106 people there were wounded, local health authorities said.
More than 200 rockets have been fired by Palestinian militants toward Israel since Monday, with over 90 percent intercepted by its Iron Dome missile defense system, army spokesman Jonathan Conricus said. At least six Israelis have been injured.
Israel has responded with 130 strikes carried out by fighter jets and attack helicopters on military targets in the enclave, killing 15 commanders from Hamas, and of the group Islamic Jihad, Conricus told reporters.
More rockets were launched from the coastal enclave Tuesday, as Hamas’ Qassam Brigades armed wing vowed it would turn the southern Israeli community of Ashkelon into “a hell.”
Conricus said Israel had no confirmation its strikes had impacted Gaza civilians, or whether the casualties there were caused by Palestinian rockets misfiring.
He listed the sites hit by Israel as weapons manufacturing and storage facilities, militant training areas and the home of a Hamas commander, among other targets.
Tensions in Jerusalem have flared into the city’s worst disturbances since 2017 since Israeli riot police clashed with large crowds of Palestinian worshippers on the last Friday of the Muslim holy fasting month of Ramadan.
Nightly unrest since then at the Al-Aqsa compound in annexed east Jerusalem has left hundreds of Palestinians wounded, drawing international calls for de-escalation and sharp rebukes from across the Muslim world.
Diplomatic sources told AFP that Egypt and Qatar, who have mediated past Israeli-Hamas conflicts, were attempting to calm tensions.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken strongly condemned the rocket attacks by Hamas, saying they “need to stop immediately.”
“All sides need to de-escalate, reduce tensions, take practical steps to calm things down,” he said.
Hamas Monday warned Israel to withdraw all its forces from the mosque compound and the east Jerusalem district of Sheikh Jarrah, where looming evictions of Palestinian families have fueled angry protests.
Sirens wailed across Jerusalem just after the 1500 GMT deadline set by Hamas as people in the city, including lawmakers in the Knesset legislature, fled to bunkers for the first time since the 2014 Gaza conflict.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Hamas had “crossed a red line” by targeting Jerusalem.
The Qassam Brigades said the rocket attacks were in response to Israeli actions in Sheikh Jarrah and around the Al-Aqsa mosque.
“This is a message that the enemy must understand well: if you respond we will respond, and if you escalate we will escalate,” it said.
Several properties in Israel have been damaged by rockets, including an apartment in the southern city of Ashkelon, and a house in Beit Nekofa, about 10 kilometers (six miles) west of central Jerusalem.
An Israeli Arab died from gunshot wounds in clashes with Israeli Jews in the central city of Lod, police said Monday, without providing details.
Fears of further chaos in the Old City had temporarily eased Monday when Israeli organizers of a march to celebrate the Jewish state’s 1967 capture of east Jerusalem canceled the event.
But then came the Hamas warning, followed by the rockets, which also forced the evacuation of the Western Wall and other sites.
On Monday evening, as during the previous nights since Friday, Palestinians hurled rocks at Israeli officers in riot gear who fired rubber bullets, stun grenades and tear gas.
There were signs of calm in Jerusalem’s Old City on Tuesday, an AFP reporter said, but the risk of escalation remained high.
The Palestinian Red Crescent said at least 520 Palestinians have been wounded since Monday, including more than 200 who were hospitalized, five of them in critical condition.
The Israeli police reported 32 injuries in their ranks.
Palestinian man Siraj, 24, sat in a wheelchair with his two legs bandaged at east Jerusalem’s crowded Makassed Hospital after suffering a spleen injury from being hit by a rubber bullet.
“They shot everyone, young and old people,” he said.
Makassed director Adnan Farhoud said most of Monday’s injuries were to the head, chest and limbs, adding that when “you mean to harm someone, you shoot at the head.”


Security experts offer a road map for NATO’s future in MENA region

Security experts offer a road map for NATO’s future in MENA region
Updated 11 May 2021

Security experts offer a road map for NATO’s future in MENA region

Security experts offer a road map for NATO’s future in MENA region
  • Arab News Research & Studies webinar examined how the military alliance can better engage with its partners in the Middle East and North Africa
  • Expert says NATO should appoint a special representative and enlarge the Mediterranean Dialogue as well as the Istanbul Cooperation Initiative

DUBAI: In the 30 years since the collapse of the Soviet Union, which heralded the start of the post-Cold War era, there has been much discussion about what role NATO ought to play in the world. How might it adapt to new and evolving challenges emanating from regions beyond its traditional geographic remit, particularly the Middle East and North Africa (MENA)?

Although Article 6 of the 1949 North Atlantic Treaty, the organization’s founding document, defines its area of responsibility as “the North Atlantic region north of the Tropic of Cancer,” a new report from the Arab News Research & Studies unit aims to highlight why the MENA region is important to NATO, what common interests they share, and how the organization might better engage with the region.

“While not strictly part of its area of responsibility, NATO cannot ignore the MENA region,” writes Luke Coffey, the report’s author and director of the Douglas and Sarah Allison Center for Foreign Policy at the Heritage Foundation, in the document’s introduction. “Historical and recent events show that what happens there can quickly spill over into Europe.”

Coffey highlights several sources of instability emanating from the region, which stretches from the eastern Atlantic Ocean through North Africa and on to the Middle East. These include demographic pressures, increased commodity prices, interstate and intrastate conflicts and tribal politics.

“A decade after the start of the so-called Arab Spring, many geopolitical challenges remain in the region, from the rise of transnational terrorism to the nuclear threat and state-sponsored terrorism from Iran. Many in NATO therefore have rightly decided to place a renewed focus on working with regional partners on the southern periphery of the alliance.”

Competition over water and other natural resources, religious tensions, revolutionary tendencies, terrorism, nuclear proliferation and proxy wars involving regional and global actors offer further cause for concern at NATO HQ.

And because the region contains some of the world’s most vital shipping lanes, energy resources and trade choke points, seemingly minor conflicts and disasters have been shown to have major ripple effects on global trade, oil prices and distant economies.

The alliance will need to adapt its relationship with MENA states (below) beyond matters of defense to areas like trade, according to Iulia-Sabina Joja. (AFP)

“NATO has gone through many such debates about what its purpose is,” Coffey said at an Arab News Research & Studies Briefing Room webinar conducted on Monday to launch the report.

“There’s been talk about focusing NATO on counterterrorism, there’s been a debate about China, there has been debate about Russia remaining the big threat. Personally, I’m more of a traditionalist on this.

“I do believe that NATO was created and designed to, where necessary, defeat Russia and deter it from aggression. However, I do also understand that there are other challenges that the alliance must deal with.”

Yet, as Coffey points out, NATO’s 2010 Strategic Concept, which was intended to serve as a guide for dealing with future challenges, includes barely any mention of the MENA region and these shared challenges.

Coffey believes the document is woefully out of date following the seismic events of the past decade, including the rise of China, a more assertive Russia, the Arab Spring, the conflict with Daesh, the ongoing war in Syria, the European migrant crisis and, more recently, the coronavirus pandemic.

As NATO prepares to draft its new Strategic Concept, Coffey argues now is the time for the organization to build on its existing partnerships with MENA states and search for new ways to cooperate.

If NATO were to follow Coffey’s advice, it is likely to find a receptive audience. According to him, not only do MENA governments share many of the security concerns of NATO member states, some of them have demonstrated a willingness to cooperate, even to the point of contributing troops to NATO-led missions in Kosovo, Afghanistan and Libya.

Iulia-Sabina Joja and Luke Coffey joined Tarek Ali Ahmad for a discussion on NATO's future in the MENA region. 

In particular, Coffey highlights NATO’s training operation in Iraq, the NATO-led Operation Ocean Shield to combat piracy off the Horn of Africa, and the NATO-enforced no-fly zone over Libya as part of its Operation Unified Protector in 2011.

NATO has already established ties in the region under the umbrellas of the Mediterranean Dialogue and the Istanbul Cooperation Initiative. Launched in 1994, the Mediterranean Dialogue forms the basis of NATO’s relations with its Mediterranean partners Algeria, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Mauritania, Morocco and Tunisia.

The Istanbul Cooperation Initiative, meanwhile, which was launched in 2004, currently forms the basis of NATO’s relations with Arab Gulf states. Although all six members of the Gulf Cooperation Council were invited to join, only Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar and the UAE have done so. Saudi Arabia and Oman have expressed only a passing interest in joining.

“To me, the report highlights the newness and fragility of NATO-MENA relations,” Iulia-Sabina Joja, a senior fellow at the Frontier Europe Initiative and an adjunct professor at Georgetown University, said during Monday’s Arab News Research & Studies webinar.

Although there has been some institutional reluctance to participate, including Tunisia’s rejection in 2018 of a NATO proposal to station personnel at a planned military operations center in Gabes, Joja said there have been several positive engagements at a practical level that bode well for future cooperation.

“Reluctance or willingness among individual NATO member states, their visions when it comes to MENA, with different actors and increasingly shared areas of cooperation and threat assessments, show it is not necessarily valid anymore to artificially separate the issues that Europe or the transatlantic community address from the issues that MENA region countries are to address,” she said. “There is a lot of common ground there.”

Joja said the relationship between NATO and MENA ought to extend beyond security and defense, and be built around “tiered cooperation” on specific issues such as trade, the economy and humanitarian intervention.

Coffey’s report sets out some practical steps that NATO can take to improve its relations with the region, including the appointment of a special representative for MENA — a step that would carry weight in a part of the world “where personal relationships are paramount.”

NATO should also push to expand membership of the Mediterranean Dialogue and the Istanbul Cooperation Initiative, he argues. To encourage this, the alliance should establish a Mediterranean Dialogue Regional Center, modeled on the Istanbul Cooperation Initiative Regional Center in Kuwait.

Finally, to build confidence and a sense of shared mission, NATO should emphasize the geopolitical importance of the MENA region by including high-level meetings for both groupings at the next alliance summit.

Indeed, one of the main issues preventing closer ties is the ongoing reluctance among some states that are mistrustful of NATO’s aims.

“This isn’t about NATO expanding an empire. This isn’t about NATO trying to plan its next military intervention anywhere,” Coffey said during the webinar. “This is about identifying a key region to NATO’s stability and security, and finding willing and like-minded partners that are willing to cooperate and work together to achieve common goals and common results.

“As NATO goes through this process of deepening its relationships with certain countries in North Africa and the Middle East, it must be mindful of sensitivities and it should only go at the pace that the particular country desires to.

“Interoperability brings trust and trust builds relationships. And that will keep us all safer.”


Arab League Council holds urgent session to discuss attack on Jerusalem

Arab League Council holds urgent session to discuss attack on Jerusalem
Updated 10 May 2021

Arab League Council holds urgent session to discuss attack on Jerusalem

Arab League Council holds urgent session to discuss attack on Jerusalem
  • The session aimed to discuss the Israeli attacks in the occupied city of Jerusalem

CAIRO: The League of Arab States held an urgent session of the League Council among Arab foreign ministers on Monday, at the request of Palestine, which was supported by a number of Arab countries.

The session aimed to discuss the Israeli attacks in the occupied city of Jerusalem, the Islamic and Christian holy sites, especially Al-Aqsa Mosque, and plans to force Palestinian families out of their homes, particularly in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood.

Hossam Zaki, assistant secretary-general of the Arab League, said that it was decided to upgrade the meeting to the ministerial level from that of the permanent delegates level.

Diab Al-Louh, Palestinian ambassador to Cairo and Palestine’s permanent representative to the Arab League, said that the urgent meeting was to discuss the seriousness of the brutal attacks on worshipers at Al-Aqsa Mosque.

Al-Louh said a request for an urgent meeting was submitted based on the directives of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, and the directives of the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates Riyad Al-Maliki.


Medical profession protests ‘unfair’ Lebanon court ruling in favor of girl

Medical profession protests ‘unfair’ Lebanon court ruling in favor of girl
Updated 10 May 2021

Medical profession protests ‘unfair’ Lebanon court ruling in favor of girl

Medical profession protests ‘unfair’ Lebanon court ruling in favor of girl
  • Doctors and private hospitals refuse to receive patients due to court ruling in favor of a child who had her limbs amputated
  • Parent Hassan Tannous praises ‘honest judiciary’

BEIRUT: All Lebanese doctors have stopped working from Monday until the end of the week in protest against a court verdict.

The medical profession in Lebanon is protesting against the judicial decision to pay high compensation to Ella Tannous, who had her limbs amputated due to a medical error six years ago.

The protesting doctors have been joined by private hospitals, which have stopped receiving patients, except in emergency cases.

The girl’s father Hassan Tannous, however, praised the “honest judiciary.”

Many doctors, including the head of Lebanese Order of Physicians, Dr. Sharaf Abu Sharaf, and the head of the Syndicate of Private Hospital Owners, Suleiman Haroun, staged a sit-in in front of the Palace of Justice in Beirut, calling the ruling “unfair.”

The Tannous case goes back to February 2015, when she was admitted to Hôpital Notre Dame des Secours in Jbeil due to her high temperature.​

Ella was diagnosed with a cold at the time, but her condition deteriorated and the child suffered septic shock, which led to gangrene that caused the amputation of her limbs.

The girl’s father had taken her to the Hotel Dieu Hospital, which refused to receive her.

He transferred her to the American University of Beirut Medical Center, where doctors decided to save her life by amputating her four limbs.

The tragedy led her parents to file a complaint in March 2015 before the Lebanese Order of Physicians against the doctor who examined her and Hôpital Notre Dame des Secours in Jbeil, on charges of neglecting the child’s health and not providing her with the necessary care.

More than one doctor was arrested and released on bail.

Those involved in the case exchanged accusations for years. The girl’s family objected to a medical report issued by the medical committee of the Lebanese Order of Physicians two months after the incident, calling it a “distortion of the facts.”

The final ruling, issued unanimously at the end of last week, by the Beirut Appeals Court, headed by Tarek Bitar, gave the girl’s family a positive surprise, while the Lebanese medical profession reacted to the ruling in a state of amazement and condemnation.

The ruling obligated the American University of Beirut Medical Center in Beirut, Hôpital Notre Dame des Secours in Jbeil and the two doctors — Essam M. and Rana Sh. — “to pay in joint and several liabilities to the child Tannous an amount of LBP 9 billion ($5.9 million) for damages, in addition to a monthly income for life estimated at four times the minimum wage.”

The ruling also stipulated “obliging the convicts to pay in joint and several liabilities an amount of LBP 500 million to the father of the child and LBP 500 million to her mother in exchange for damages.”

Medical errors committed against patients have often resulted in settlements. Some cases are still pending in the courts.

The head of the National Health Authority, Dr. Ismail Sukkarieh, told Arab News that the judicial ruling “is based more on emotions than wisdom, justice and scientific facts.”

Sukkarieh added: “The judiciary focused on the tragedy of the child’s condition, which cannot be compensated with money, without checking the stages of the disease and the accumulation of its causes.”

He said: “Hôpital Notre Dame des Secours in Jbeil was not equipped with intensive care for children. As for the doctors who saved the child through the amputation, they were spiritually affected.”

Hassan Tannous said that although the ruling “does not compensate for the loss of Ella to her limbs, it is a moral compensation.”

The father said the ruling “is a very strong message in the face of the perpetrators of medical errors, that there is an honest judiciary capable of restoring the rights of the owners.”

The girl’s family moved to France for her rehabilitation but continued to pursue the lawsuit until the end.

“It is a public rights issue to protect all Lebanese children from medical neglect,” said Hassan.

During the sit-in at the Palace of Justice on Monday, Dr. Abu Sharaf said: “There are complications that occur as a result of the medicines, and mistakes happen sometimes, but the doctors have no criminal intent. After today, no doctor will dare to work on difficult and rare cases.”

Dr. Ashraf called for “work to remove the effect of the judicial decision, and to establish a body specialized in medical matters in the judiciary to study medical problems.”

Hotel Dieu Hospital de France announced that it would stop receiving patients in all its departments and private clinics.

“It is unacceptable for doctors to pay the price for a health policy that does not exist in the first place,” said Elias Shallal, head of the hospital’s medical committee.

“It is unacceptable to applaud doctors for their role in the fight against coronavirus and after the Beirut Port explosion, and then attack them because of a medical error.”

The administration of Hôpital Notre Dame des Secours in Jbeil described the ruling as “unfair.”

It stopped receiving patients except in emergency cases.

The American University Medical Center in Beirut closed its clinics until further notice and stopped receiving patients, except for emergency cases.


Israel defies international community as conflict with Palestinians continues

Israel defies international community as conflict with Palestinians continues
Updated 11 May 2021

Israel defies international community as conflict with Palestinians continues

Israel defies international community as conflict with Palestinians continues
  • Outrage prompted over targeting of civilians, holy sites, and use excessive force
  • Former PLO committee member challenges Americans, Europeans to ‘grow a backbone’

AMMAN: Despite calls from the international community for an end to the hostilities between Israeli security forces and Palestinians, clashes continued in Jerusalem on Monday, with violence erupting at Al-Aqsa Mosque, Islam’s third holiest site, for the second day in a row.

Over 300 people have reportedly been injured, with the Red Crescent saying half a dozen Palestinians are in a critical condition.

On Friday, May 7, US State Department spokesman Ned Price called on both sides to show restraint, saying Washington was “extremely concerned about ongoing confrontations in Jerusalem, including on the Haram al-Sharif/Temple Mount and in Sheikh Jarrah,” condemning an attack on Israeli soldiers and “reciprocal attacks on Palestinians.”

US-based outlet Axios, meanwhile, said the White House had pressed Israel to restrain Monday’s planned Jerusalem Day celebrations, marking the capture of East Jerusalem in 1967, so as not to stoke further tension in the city, but that Israel had rebuffed these advances.

Former Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) executive committee member Hanan Ashrawi challenged the US and European leaders to “grow a backbone” and “translate their words into action,” over restraining Israel against Palestinian worshippers.

She said: “Americans must learn to grow a backbone and work hard to enforce their position and to use their financial and political power. This is not a big deal to ask to ensure freedom of religion.

“This is the language that the Israelis understand; if they are being rewarded, nothing will happen,” she continued. “There has to be a cost and this is a test of the Biden administration. Americans must say enough is enough.”

Ashrawi added that what is happening is a “crime” and a clear case of multiple human rights violations, including targeting civilians, vandalizing holy sites, and using excessive power against worshipers.

Protests at the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood, meanwhile, drew the presence of right-wing Israeli members of the Knesset and a large number of Palestinians and their supporters.

The UN secretary-general and senior world leaders were among those to condemn the violence, and express their concerns over the evictions in Sheikh Jarrah.

Jordan summoned the Israeli chargé d’affaires in Amman, and threatened to recall its ambassador in Tel Aviv. There were also loud demonstrations outside the Embassy of Israel in Jordan calling for its closure.

Former Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad told Arab News that Jerusalem is the symbol of the Palestinian cause.

“The reunification of the homeland and its national institutions requires the full (cooperation) of all Palestinians regardless of where they are,” said Fayad.

“Such reaction is the strongest response to the Israeli aggression and the terror of its army and settlers against our holy places and our people in Jerusalem,” he added.

Fayyad continued that the basic right of people to live in their homes and homeland was fundamental “to allow our people to extract their right to self-determination.”

Hazem Kawasmi, a Jerusalem civil society activist, told Arab News that what is happening in Sheikh Jarrah was the continuation of the last 70 years of evictions of Palestinians from their homes and land across the country.

“Trying to evict 28 families from their houses in Sheikh Jarrah is a clear case that (shows) the Israeli apartheid regime and transfer policy to implement their ‘Judaizing’ of the city, emptying it of its indigenous Palestinian population,” Kawasmi said.

“Not surprisingly, the international community are watching and doing nothing to stop the rogue state of Israel from practicing its ethnic cleansing policies.”

There are fears that Israel’s actions in Jerusalem could also provoke wider problems beyond the city. Senior Hamas figure Salah Aruri warned that “by playing with fire in Jerusalem, the occupiers (Israel) will witness a burning response on their heads.”