RAMALLAH: Dozens of Palestinians performed Friday prayers in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood in East Jerusalem in a display of solidarity with families facing eviction by Israeli authorities in the area.
The groups were provoked by opposition protests, who raised Israeli flags and insulted them.
The calls for evictions have been led by the extremist member of the Knesset, Itamar Ben Gvir, the leader of the far-right Otzma Yehudit party who moved his office to the neighborhood six days ago.
Ekrima Said Sabri, head of the Supreme Islamic Council, said in the Friday sermon: “The steadfastness of the people of the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood is a protection for the blessed Al-Aqsa Mosque.”
Denouncing the attempts to expel the residents from their homes, he added that the Jerusalemites are facing injustice and racial discrimination.
Israeli police officers were deployed to the streets of the sensitive neighborhood, cordoning entrances and the prayer area.
Police checkpoints were established throughout the neighborhood, while the Israeli Defense Force has reinforced its deployed forces across the West Bank in preparation for a Friday of anger called for by the Palestinians.
Palestinian citizens traveled from within the Green Line, Jerusalem and the West Bank to support the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood in response to calls by activists and religious and national bodies.
Sareen Jabarin, a political activist from Umm Al-Fahm, who was on a bus with a group of fellow activists, told Arab News: “We are going to support our people in Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood and what they are subjected to — ethnic cleansing and eviction of their homes — because of the apartheid policy pursued by the Israeli government.”
Jabarin, who participated in similar demonstrations last year, added that she would continue to protest against attempts to displace Palestinian families in Sheikh Jarrah.
Tensions are increasing ahead of the approaching implementation date of the order to evict the Palestinian families from their residences in the neighborhood and replace them with Jewish settlers. The violent action is expected in March.
The move has raised anger and concern not only among Palestinian groups but also among Arab and Islamic countries, international organizations and the EU.
In a tweet on Feb. 18, an EU delegation expressed its concern over ongoing developments in Sheikh Jarrah. It said that “incidents of settler violence, irresponsible provocations” and other acts in the neighborhood “only fuel "further tensions and must cease.”
The issue has united Jerusalemites of different religious and political affiliations to defend those threatened with eviction.
Palestinian activists from the neighborhood told Arab News that some social media platforms such as Instagram and Facebook had blocked their accounts for highlight the controversial events that are taking place.
Fatah leader in East Jerusalem, Hatem Abdel Qader, said the people’s “presence today is to respond to the provocation from Knesset member Ben Gvir and the Israeli police that are trying to provoke Jerusalemites and are trying to create an environment that expels Jerusalemites from their homes.”
Meanwhile, a UN statement said: “The announcement of the scheduled eviction has recently raised tension in the Jerusalem neighborhood, with clashes involving Palestinian residents, Israeli settlers, and Israeli security forces resulting in property damage, multiple injuries and arrests, including the arrest of eight children since Feb. 11.”
Families have been subjected to attacks with pepper spray and stones resulting in injury and property damage, the UN added.
There are 218 Palestinian families, comprising 970 individuals, including 424 children, living in East Jerusalem, mainly in the neighborhoods of Sheikh Jarrah and Silwan, that are currently facing the threat of forced eviction by the Israeli authorities.
“The United Nations has repeatedly called for a halt to forced evictions and demolitions in the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem: Under international humanitarian law, forcible transfers of protected persons by the occupying power are forbidden regardless of their motive,” the statement said.
“Active steps must be taken to de-escalate the situation before another crisis erupts; we urge all political and community leaders to refrain from provocative action and rhetoric. Israeli authorities must take steps to ensure the protection of civilians, including Palestine refugees,” it added.