JERUSALEM: Israeli police clashed with Palestinians in the flashpoint East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah on Sunday, as a visit by a controversial far-right Jewish lawmaker inflamed tensions.
Police said two people were arrested as they tried to contain “a violent riot,” in the area of annexed East Jerusalem that has emerged as a symbol of Palestinian resistance against Israeli control of the city.
Scuffles broke out as Itamar Ben Gvir of the far-right Religious Zionism alliance opened a parliamentary 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.
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 on Sunday that he would remain there until police “looked after the security of the (Jewish) residents.”
The Palestinian Authority, based in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, condemned Ben Gvir’s visit as a “provocative and escalating move that threatens to ignite ... violence that will be difficult to control.”
Tensions that erupted in Sheikh Jarrah last year — as several Palestinian families faced eviction by settler groups — in part sparked the May conflict between Israel and armed groups in Gaza.
Hamas, the Islamists who control Gaza, warned there would “consequences” over Israel’s repeated “attacks” on Sheikh Jarrah.
Palestinians across East Jerusalem accuse Israeli police of using heavy-handed tactics to quell protests. Six people were arrested in the neighborhood during unrest late Saturday.
Israel captured East Jerusalem in the 1967 Six Day War and later annexed it, in a move not recognized by most of the international community.