Burden of Daesh stigma weighs heavily on kin of Iraq’s defeated militants

An unwritten policy of guilt by association with Daesh has left thousands of Iraqi households in a state of limbo — unable to move forward or back. (AFP/File Photo)
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An unwritten policy of guilt by association with Daesh has left thousands of Iraqi households in a state of limbo — unable to move forward or back. (AFP/File Photo)
An unwritten policy of guilt by association with Daesh has left thousands of Iraqi households in a state of limbo — unable to move forward or back. (AFP/File Photo)
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An unwritten policy of guilt by association with Daesh has left thousands of Iraqi households in a state of limbo — unable to move forward or back. (AFP/File Photo)
Wahid Husain, from Mosul, former Iraqi soldier, in Al-Jeddah camp 5, Nineveh province, Iraq. (AN Photo/Kareem Botane)
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Wahid Husain, from Mosul, former Iraqi soldier, in Al-Jeddah camp 5, Nineveh province, Iraq. (AN Photo/Kareem Botane)
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Updated 04 May 2021

Burden of Daesh stigma weighs heavily on kin of Iraq’s defeated militants

Wahid Husain, from Mosul, former Iraqi soldier, in Al-Jeddah camp 5, Nineveh province, Iraq. (AN Photo/Kareem Botane)
  • Iraqis with perceived links to Daesh face barriers to obtaining documentation or returning to their homes
  • Aid agencies fear children and women left stranded in camps may become a permanent underclass

NINEVEH/IRBIL/BOGOTA: Since the collapse of Daesh’s so-called caliphate in Iraq and Syria, many Western nations have been reluctant to allow the families of fighters to return for legal, political and security reasons. But the issue is equally complicated in the two war-weary Arab countries that the “caliphate” straddled while it lasted.

More than three years after the territorial defeat of Daesh in Iraq, over one million Iraqis remain trapped in a precarious state of displacement. Those with perceived association with the terrorist group face added barriers to obtaining documentation or returning to their homes.

If their status is not resolved soon, aid agencies fear that those left stranded in Iraq’s sprawling camps risk forever being tarred as “Daesh families,” becoming a permanent underclass vulnerable to indoctrination and recruitment by organized crime or violent extremist groups.

“I did not agree with Daesh’s ideas. Since the beginning I used to fight with my husband, but he was brainwashed,” said Um Haidar, 42, who has spent the past four years in Al-Jeddah camp 5, a tent city of about 1,400 families in Iraq’s northwest Nineveh province.




Hayiya Mahmoud Emdid’s granddaughter with her sister inside their tent in Al-Jeddah camp 5, Nineveh province, Iraq. (AN Photo/Kareem Botane)

“Before Daesh, my husband was a shepherd. When Daesh took control of our area, my husband joined them. He worked with Daesh as a river policeman.

“My husband wanted us to leave our village. He told me he didn’t want to harm his relatives or be harmed by them. We moved to an area called Dawr Al-Masafaa. We stayed there for a year. After we moved to Mosul. Since then, we have never been back to our village.”

Because of her husband and their son’s affiliation with Daesh, the tribal leaders who control the village of Al-Awsajah barred Um Haidar, her son’s widow and their children from returning after the liberation.

“Our house was destroyed by the people of our village. It’s gone now. Nothing is left,” she said. In the absence of a government-led peace and reconciliation effort, collective punishments of this kind are commonplace.

“I want to return to my area. I want to have reconciliation with the tribes. They don’t want us back because my husband was with Daesh,” said Um Haidar. “But he did not kill anyone.”




Hayiya Mahmoud Emdid with her grandchildren in Al-Jeddah camp 5, Nineveh province, Iraq. (AN Photo/Kareem Botane)

Hayiya Mahmoud Emdid, another camp resident, tells a similar story of guilt by association. “Three of my sons joined Daesh. I don’t know how they died,” said Emdid, originally from Imam Gharbi, a village near Nineveh’s southern town of Qayyarah. “I have been told they were killed in the Old City of Mosul.”

Like Um Haidar, she too says she had tried to reason with her relatives whipped up by Daesh’s fanaticism. “I was angry when I was told that my sons joined Daesh. But they joined to make a living for their families,” Emdid said. “I am here in the camp because of my sons — me and the wives of my sons. We tried to stop them from remaining with Daesh, but we could not.”

As a result, the village refuses to take them back. “It’s a punishment for us. We don’t know our future. Our sheikh does not want us to go back. His brothers were killed by Daesh.”

The stigma attached to these families is robbing the youngest camp residents of a normal childhood. Many are unable to renew or apply for documentation, including birth certificates required to enroll in school.

“The children here are rejected by society,” said Abdullah Hamid Salih, the mukhtar (chieftain) of Al-Jeddah camp 5, who lived under Daesh’s reign in Mosul. “When they go out of the camp, they are not accepted by society. Most of the people here can’t go back to their areas due to tribal conflicts.”




Salih Mahamad, age 53, with his grandchildren in Al-Jeddah camp 5, Nineveh province, Iraq. (AN Photo/Kareem Botane)

Salih, once a successful shopkeeper, has given up on returning to his former life, and instead wants the government in Baghdad to offer his wife and their five children a chance to start over somewhere entirely new.

“The best would be for the government to offer places for these families in another area, as the tribal issues will not be solved,” he said. “If the children stay in the camp, they will grow up hating the government, hating the region. It will be a new generation of Daesh.”

Daesh’s lightning advance across northern Iraq and Syria in the summer of 2014 left a trail of death and destruction in its wake.

Those who chose to remain under its rule, or were prevented from escaping, endured the cruelties of the group’s warped ideology, experienced hunger as shortages began to bite, and watched helplessly as their home towns became battlefields.

It is perhaps no surprise that those who fled, who lost their homes and whose loved ones succumbed to the group’s savagery are so reluctant to welcome back their erstwhile neighbors, now perceived as Daesh collaborators.

“I can’t protect these families if they come back. They can be attacked by other people in the village,” said Ramathan Abo Ahmed, mukhtar of Imam Gharbi.

“People would say they have family members who were killed by Daesh and until now they haven’t had compensation or a death certificate. People would not accept families that are linked to Daesh coming back.”

Some former residents have been accepted back into the community on a case-by-case basis, but the decision is not taken lightly.

Daesh in Iraq

* 18 - Countries in which Daesh operated before defeat.

* $1bn - Annual budget of terror group at that time.

* 30,000 - Estimated Daesh membership at the time.

“We have women whose husbands were with Daesh, but they did not support Daesh. They are living in the village,” Ahmed said. “But the ones who are still in the camps, they harmed people. These women followed their husbands when they joined Daesh.

“We thought about the children. But some of the women supported Daesh more than their men. The only way to get them back is for the tribal leaders all to agree to their return. We held a meeting with the tribal leaders and security forces of Qayyarah and the people of the area. They don’t want them back.”

This unwritten policy of guilt by association has left thousands of households in a state of limbo — unable to move forward or back.

“We are extremely concerned about the fate of families with perceived Daesh affiliation,” Belkis Wille, a senior researcher with the Conflict and Crisis division at Human Rights Watch (HRW), told Arab News.




Children play in Al-Jeddah camp 5, Nineveh province, Iraq. (AN Photo/Kareem Botane)

“Not only are they generally often cut off from returning to their communities and reintegrating in their communities, but, at the official level, they’re cut off from all government services, which include welfare programming, health care, the ability to get compensation to rebuild their homes, and obviously for their children, the big concern is that their children are often cut off from education and are unable to enroll in school.

“The authorities, in some cases, have tried to engage with tribal leaders and with communities to try and convince them to allow certain families to return home, often with limited success. In other instances, the government hasn’t really tried to do that.

“If the government were to ensure that everyone in Iraq, regardless of any family affiliation to Daesh, was able to renew their documents, then these families would be able to move to new areas — areas where they are perhaps not stigmatized (so much), larger cities where they can live with more anonymity, and within those new locations they could establish a life for themselves and reintegrate into the community.”

Even if the government resolved the issue of documentation, such families would still face opposition returning to their homes because state-led reconciliation efforts have been entirely neglected.

“The government has been extremely slow in paying out compensation to people whose property was destroyed by Daesh or by fighting against Daesh,” said Wille.

“If that compensation was coming more quickly, that might help ease tensions. There are so many other transitional justice mechanisms that could be established to allow for truth-telling, for apologizing, things that have worked in many other countries, that the government has just not invested in.

“Until those exist, the government has a limited ability in pushing tribes and communities to accept these families back.”




A amputee uses crutches to walk in a debris-strewn street in the old neighborhood of the northern Iraqi city of Mosul on November 7, 2018. (AFP/File Photo)

Adnan Al-Daraji, administrator of Al-Jeddah camp 5, says the families in his care find themselves in a unique predicament that Baghdad is working hard to resolve.

“The Iraqi government wants to end the displacement in Iraq as we are not at war anymore,” Al-Daraji said. “There is support coming from the government for people to return and leave camps. But when it comes to this camp, there is more patience as most of the families here are Daesh families.”

Al-Daraji knows Iraq’s displacement crisis cannot go on forever if the country is ever to stabilize and prosper. “The camp has to be closed at some point and people should return to their areas with dignity,” he told Arab News.

Um Haidar believes her husband was probably killed when the Daesh-run guesthouse in Deir ez-Zor in which he lived was destroyed in an airstrike. The couple had moved to the northeast Syrian province to escape the fighting in northwest Iraq.

“My son stayed in Mosul. He was with Daesh too. We stopped receiving news of my son when we moved to Syria,” she said.

As a lone parent, sick with hepatitis, Um Haidar was permitted to re-enter Iraq on humanitarian grounds. Here, she and her surviving children began their search for acceptance.

“If my children stay here in the camp, if they are rejected by their relatives and the people of their village, they will carry hatred,” she warned. “I can tell they feel this way.”


Houthis defy US, UN calls for halting offensive on Marib

Houthis defy US, UN calls for halting offensive on Marib
Updated 12 min 33 sec ago

Houthis defy US, UN calls for halting offensive on Marib

Houthis defy US, UN calls for halting offensive on Marib
  • Mohammed Ali Al-Houthis, the president of the militia’s supreme revolutionary committee, said on Twitter that the movement would continue reinforcing the battlefields with new fighters
  • Thousands of rebel fighters and government troops have been killed in fierce fighting since February, when the Houthis renewed a major offensive to seize control of Marib

AL-MUKALLA: Iran-backed Houthis have defied US and UN calls to halt their deadly offensive on Yemen’s central city of Marib by drumming up supporters to join the battlefields.

A day after the US slammed the militia for snubbing the UN Special Envoy for Yemen Martin Griffiths in Muscat and refusing to halt their military operations, Mohammed Ali Al-Houthis, the president of the militia’s supreme revolutionary committee, said on Twitter that the movement would continue reinforcing the battlefields with new fighters and equipment and would keep fighting until they outright defeat their opponents. 

Thousands of rebel fighters and government troops have been killed in fierce fighting since February, when the Houthis renewed a major offensive to seize control of Marib, the government’s last stronghold in the country’s north.

Local and international aid organizations and officials warned that the Houthi invasion of Marib would trigger a displacement that would fuel the humanitarian crisis, as the city hosts more than 2 million people who have already fled fighting and Houthi suppression.

Briefing the Yemeni Cabinet on the military situation during an online meeting on Saturday, Defense Minister Mohammed Al-Maqdishi said that the Houthis suffered “big” losses in fighters and equipment and the Yemeni Army and allied tribesmen took the initiative on the battlefields and foiled many “suicidal” assaults on Marib, the official news agency SABA reported.

The cabinet urged the international community to take a “firm and clear” stand against the Houthis’ repeated rejection of peace initiatives and their determination to worsen the humanitarian crisis.

“Hazy positions would push this militia and its supporters in Tehran into increasing the suffering (of Yemenis) and the humanitarian catastrophe in Yemen,” the Cabinet said in a statement.

Last week, President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi dispatched Prime Minister Maeen Abdul Malik Saeed to Marib in a show of support to government forces. 

Saeed was ordered to increase military support to the army and tribesmen who are battling the Houthis close to the city.

At the same time, government officials and activists have launched on Sunday an online campaign in support of government troops battling the Houthis in Marib.

“We call on all Yemenis from all walks of life and political and social groups to participate in the media campaign to support the steadfastness of the heroes of the National Army and the Popular Resistance and the tribes on various fronts in Marib province,” Muammar Al-Eryani, minister of information, culture and tourism, said in a Twitter post.


Fire erupts in engine of tanker near Syrian coast

Fire erupts in engine of tanker near Syrian coast
Updated 09 May 2021

Fire erupts in engine of tanker near Syrian coast

Fire erupts in engine of tanker near Syrian coast

AMMAN/CAIRO: A small fire occurred in one of the engines of a tanker off the coast of Syria's Mediterranean port of Banias, state media said.
The fire was extinguished by the crew quickly with no casualties, it said.
"The technical fault took place in one of the engines of the oil tanker near the coast...it caused a small fire and a plume of smoke," state media said.
Local radio station FM Sham earlier said an explosion had hit a tanker during maintenance works after it had caught fire a few days earlier while offloading its oil cargo.
Last month, Syria's oil ministry said firefighters put out a fire on an oil tanker off the Banias refinery after a suspected attack by a drone coming from the direction of Lebanese waters.
Banias houses a refinery which, along with another in Homs, covers a significant part of the country's demand for diesel, heating fuel, gasoline and other petroleum products, according to industry experts.
Syria has grown more dependent on Iranian oil shipments in recent years but tightening Western sanctions on Iran, Syria and their allies, as well as a foreign currency crunch, have made it more difficult to get enough supplies.


Iraqi activist’s killing sparks protests against impunity

Iraqi activist’s killing sparks protests against impunity
Updated 09 May 2021

Iraqi activist’s killing sparks protests against impunity

Iraqi activist’s killing sparks protests against impunity
  • Ihab Al-Wazni, a coordinator of protests in the Shiite shrine city of Karbala, was a vocal opponent of corruption
  • He was shot overnight outside his home by men on motorbikes, in an ambush caught on surveillance cameras

KARBALA: A leading Iraqi anti-government activist was killed early Sunday, security sources and activists said, sending supporters of a protest movement onto the streets to demand an end to bloodshed.
Ihab Al-Wazni, a coordinator of protests in the Shiite shrine city of Karbala, was a vocal opponent of corruption, the stranglehold of Tehran-linked armed groups and Iran’s influence in Iraq.
He was shot overnight outside his home by men on motorbikes, in an ambush caught on surveillance cameras. His death was confirmed by security forces and activists.
Wazni narrowly escaped death in December 2019, when men on motorbikes used silenced weapons to kill fellow activist Fahem Al-Tai as he was dropping him home in Karbala, where pro-Tehran armed groups are legion.
Both were key figures in a national protest movement that erupted against government corruption and incompetence in Iraq in October 2019.
Around 600 people were killed as a result of their association with that movement — many on the streets during rallies, others targeted on their doorsteps away from the rallies.
Protests broke out in Karbala, Nassiriya and Diwaniya in southern Iraq in reaction to Wazni’s killing, as people called for an end to the bloodshed and to rampant corruption.
In a video recording in the morgue where his body was initially held, a fellow activist made it clear who he and colleagues blamed for the killing.
“It is the Iranian militias who killed Ihab,” said the unnamed activist. “They are going to kill all of us! They threaten us and the government remains silent.”
Police in Karbala said they “will spare no effort” to find “the terrorists” behind Wazni’s killing.
Politicians, including Shiite leader Ammar Al-Haki, deplored the killing and called for justice.
Around 30 activists have died in targeted killings and dozens of others abducted, some detained briefly, since October 2019.
Such targeted killings are normally carried out in the dead of night by men on motorbikes, and nobody claims responsibility.
Activists and the UN repeatedly blame “militias.”
Authorities have consistently failed to identify the perpetrators of these political killings.
Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhemi took office a year ago, vowing to rein in rogue factions, fight corruption and roll out long-awaited reforms after years of war and insurgency.
Pro-Iran groups view the premier as being too close to Washington and protesters believe he has failed to deliver on his promises.
“Such crimes against activists in Iraq raise again the question about the real steps of the government regarding accountability for... (those) responsible for crimes” targeting protesters, Ali Bayati, a member of Iraq’s Human Rights Commission, tweeted Sunday.
Wazni had himself challenged Kadhemi in a Facebook post in February, asking rhetorically: “Do you know what is going on? You know that they kidnap and kill — or you live in another country?“


US Navy seizes weapons in Arabian Sea ‘destined for Yemen from Iran’

 US Navy seizes weapons in Arabian Sea ‘destined for Yemen from Iran’
Updated 09 May 2021

US Navy seizes weapons in Arabian Sea ‘destined for Yemen from Iran’

 US Navy seizes weapons in Arabian Sea ‘destined for Yemen from Iran’
  • Seizure includes thousands of assault weapons, machines guns and sniper rifles hidden aboard a ship
  • US Navy’s initial investigation found the vessel came from Iran

DUBAI: The US Navy announced Sunday it seized an arms shipment of thousands of assault weapons, machines guns and sniper rifles hidden aboard a ship in the Arabian Sea, apparently bound for Yemen to support the country’s Houthi rebels.
An American defense official told The Associated Press that the Navy’s initial investigation found the vessel came from Iran, again tying the Islamic Republic to arming the Houthis despite a United Nations arms embargo. Iran’s mission to the UN did not immediately respond to a request for comment, though Tehran has denied in the past giving the rebels weapons.

 


The seizure, one of several amid the yearslong war in Yemen, comes as the US and others try to end a conflict that spawned one of the world’s worst humanitarian disasters. The arms shipment, described as sizeable, shows that the war may still have far to run.
The guided-missile cruiser USS Monterey discovered the weapons aboard what the Navy described as a stateless dhow, a traditional Mideast sailing ship, in an operation that began Thursday in the northern reaches of the Arabian Sea off Oman and Pakistan. Sailors boarded the vessel and found the weapons, most wrapped in green plastic, below deck.
When laid out on the deck of the Monterey, the scale of the find came into focus. Sailors found nearly 3,000 Chinese Type 56 assault rifles, a variant of the Kalashnikov. They recovered hundreds of other heavy machine guns and sniper rifles, as well as dozens of advanced, Russian-made anti-tank guided missiles. The shipments also included several hundred rocket-propelled grenade launchers and optical sights for weapons.

 

 


The Navy’s Mideast-based 5th Fleet did not identify where the weapons originated, nor where they were going. However, an American defense official said the weapons resembled those of other shipments interdicted bounded for the Houthis.
Based on interviews with the crew and material investigated on board, the sailors determined the vessel came from Iran, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the ongoing investigation.
“After all illicit cargo was removed, the dhow was assessed for seaworthiness, and after questioning, its crew was provided food and water before being released,” the 5th Fleet said in a statement.
The seizure marks just the latest in the Arabian Sea or Gulf of Aden involving weapons likely bound to Yemen. The seizures began in 2016 and have continued intermittently throughout the war, which has seen the Houthis fire ballistic missiles and use drones later linked to Iran. Yemen is awash with small arms that have been smuggled into poorly controlled ports over years of conflict.

The weapons were seized from a dhow in the Arabian Sea. (US Navy)


This recent seizure appeared to be among the biggest. Tim Michetti, an investigative researcher who studies the illicit weapon trade, also said the shipment bore similarities to the others.
“The unique blend of materiel recovered by the USS Monterey appears to be consistent with the materiel from previous interdictions, which have been linked to Iran,” he said.
Yemen’s war began in September 2014, when the Houthis seized Sanaa and began a march south to try to seize the entire country. Saudi Arabia, along with the United Arab Emirates and other countries, entered the war alongside Yemen’s internationally recognized government in March 2015. Iran backed the Houthis, who harass Saudi Arabia with missile fire and drone attacks.
Since 2015, the UN Security Council has imposed an arms embargo on the Houthis. Despite that, UN experts warn “an increasing body of evidence suggests that individuals or entities in the Islamic Republic of Iran supply significant volumes of weapons and components to the Houthis.”

 


Netanyahu says Israel firm on Jerusalem as global concern mounts

Netanyahu says Israel firm on Jerusalem as global concern mounts
Updated 6 min 57 sec ago

Netanyahu says Israel firm on Jerusalem as global concern mounts

Netanyahu says Israel firm on Jerusalem as global concern mounts
  • Pope Francis has also called for an end to the violence in Jerusalem
  • Tunisia calls for UN Security Council meeting, as Arab League and Arab Parliament to hold emergency sessions to discuss Israeli crimes and attacks

LONDON: Israel “firmly rejects” pressure not to build in Jerusalem, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Sunday following spreading international condemnation of planned evictions of Palestinians from homes in the city claimed by Jewish settlers.
“We firmly reject the pressure not to build in Jerusalem. To my regret, this pressure has been increasing of late,” Netanyahu said during a televised address ahead of national commemorations of the Israeli capture of east Jerusalem in a 1967 war.
“I say also to the best of our friends: Jerusalem is Israel’s capital and just as every nation builds in its capital and builds up its capital, we also have the right to build in Jerusalem and to build up Jerusalem. That is what we have done and that is what we will continue to do,” Netanyahu said.
His comments come as Israel’s justice ministry said it would delay the key Monday hearing in the case that could see Palestinian families evicted from their Jerusalem homes to make way for Jewish settlers.
“In all the circumstances and in light of the attorney general’s request, the regular hearing for tomorrow, May 10, 2021 (is) canceled,” it said in a statement, adding it would schedule a new hearing within 30 days.
The delay follows days of clashes between Palestinian protesters and Israeli security forces, fueled in part by the dispute in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood.
Meanwhile, Pope Francis expressed his concern at the unrest in Jerusalem, saying: “Violence only generates violence. Let’s stop these clashes.”
“I pray so that this might be a place of encounter and not violent clashes, a place of prayer and of peace. I invite everyone to seek shared resolutions so that the multireligious identity and multiculture of the holy city might be respected and so that fraternity might prevail,” he said after reciting the Regina Caeli prayer.
Jordan also urged Israel on Sunday to stop what it described as “barbaric” attacks on worshippers in Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa mosque and said it would step up international pressure.
Jordan, which has custodianship of Muslim and Christian sites in Jerusalem, said Israel should respect worshippers and international law safeguarding Arab rights.
King Abdullah II condemned the violations and said he rejected attempts by Israeli authorities to change the demographic situation in east Jerusalem, and all measures aimed at changing the city’s historical and legal status. The king also called on Israel to adhere to international law and international humanitarian law.
He said Jordan would continue to protect Islamic and Christian holy sites and to preserve its Arab and Islamic identity, and called for coordination between Arab states to put an end to the Israeli violations in east Jerusalem and the Al-Aqsa mosque.
“What the Israeli police and special forces are doing, from violations against the mosque to attacks on worshippers, is barbaric (behavior) that is rejected and condemned,” the government said in a statement.
Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi said the kingdom would do its utmost to protect rights of Palestinians against ownership claims by Jewish settlers.
“Israel as the occupying force carries responsibility for protecting rights of Palestinians in their homes,” Safadi said in comments on state media.
Tunisia, the only Arab member of the UN Security Council, in coordination with Palestine, submitted a request to hold a session on Monday to discuss the dangerous escalation and aggressive practices of the Israeli authorities in Palestinian territories.
The request was supported by China — current president of the council — along with Norway, Ireland, Vietnam, Saint Vincent, the Grenadines and Niger.
The session will also discuss Israeli attacks against the Palestinians and their insistence on their expansionist policies, including settlement plans, demolition and dispossession of homes, displacement of Palestinian families, land grabbing, and obliterating the historical and civilizational identity of Jerusalem, the Tunisian foreign ministry said.
“These practices constitute a flagrant violation of international law, a threat to international peace and security and undermine efforts aimed at achieving a just and comprehensive peace in the region,” the ministry added.
Arab League foreign ministers announced they would hold an emergency meeting at Palestine’s request, which has been supported by a number of countries. 
Hossam Zaki, assistant secretary-general of the Arab League, said in a statement “the meeting will discuss Israeli crimes and attacks in the occupied city of Jerusalem, Islamic and Christian holy sites, especially Al-Aqsa Mosque, and attacks on worshipers, in addition to the brutal Israeli attacks and plans to seize the homes of Palestinian families in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood to empty the city of its residents and displace its people.”
Zaki said the decision was taken to raise the level of the meeting to the ministerial level, instead of ambassadorial, in proportion to the “seriousness of the Israeli attacks that are part of the Zionist regime’s systematic policy to Judaize Jerusalem and change the existing legal and historical status of the city and its sanctities.”
The Arab Parliament also said it will hold an emergency session on May 19 in Cairo to discuss the same issues.
Adel bin Abdulrahman Al-Asoumi, president of the Arab Parliament, stressed the need for Israel to stop the ongoing crimes committed against the Palestinian people, and support all their rights, foremost of which is the establishment of an independent Palestinian state, with east Jerusalem as its capital. 
Dozens of Palestinians and several Israeli police officers have been wounded in clashes in recent days in east Jerusalem’s Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood, the scene of a long-running land dispute and located a short walk from flashpoint holy sites.
The case dates back to before the creation of the state of Israel, when a small Jewish community lived in Sheikh Jarrah.
After Israel’s independence and the 1948 war with its Arab neighbors, east Jerusalem came under the control of Jordan.
Many refugees settled in the district after fleeing Zionist forces in other parts of what was now Israel.
Israel then seized east Jerusalem in the 1967 Six Day War and later annexed it.
Early this year, the Jerusalem district court ruled in favor of Jewish settlers who laid claim to land in the Sheikh Jarrah district, now home to around 30 Palestinians from four families.
Palestinians argue that discriminatory laws mean they are unable to claim back their properties inside what is now Israel.
The Palestinian families’ lawyer, Hosni Abu Hussein, also accused the settlers of fraud.
“The registration of the lands in the name of the settlement association took place through fraud and deception, in collusion with the commissioner of public properties and the registrar of Israeli lands,” he told AFP.
The dispute, in a strategic location close to Jerusalem’s Old City, has added fuel to tensions around the nearby Al-Aqsa mosque, Islam’s third-holiest mosque, during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. 
Hamas in Gaza have threatened attacks against Israel if the high-profile case goes against the Palestinian families.
(With Reuters and AFP)