Jerusalem Protest Over Human Remains Unearthed at Construction Site Spills Into Violence

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Construction work near a Muslim graveyard in Jerusalem, in 2020.
Construction work near a Muslim graveyard in Jerusalem, in 2020.Credit: Ohad Zwigenberg

Palestinians and Israeli police forces violently clashed in East Jerusalem on Sunday following the discovery of human bones during construction work near the Old City walls.

Israel police said a 30-year-old resident of East Jerusalem was arrested for "disturbing the peace and cursing at police officers," while Palestinian sources reported that 10 people were injured in the clashes.

The tensions came after remains were discovered in an area earmarked by the authorities to become a promenade and public garden, located very close to al-Yusufiya Cemetery, a large Muslim graveyard adjacent to the walls.

A Muslim graveyard in the Old City in East Jerusalem, in 2019.Credit: Emil Salman

During construction work at the site, several human bones were found, and many Palestinian residents rushed to the area. A mass protest prayer was held at the site, in which Palestinians threw stones at the place and the police dispersed the protesters by using stun grenades and foam-coated bullets.

Tensions have escalated in Jerusalem following several violent incidents last week. On Thursday, several members of a Palestinian family were attacked by Jewish youths in the center of town, and on Saturday clashes broke out near the Damascus Gate during which Palestinians threw rocks and attacked Jewish passers-by. In the latter incident, the police responded forcefully using crowd dispersal measures. In several instances, police were documented using assault dogs to drive protesters away. The dogs were muzzled and did not use their teeth.

The excavation was done on Sunday afternoon by the Jerusalem Development Authority and the Nature and Parks Authority as part of the development of the area near the northeast corner of the wall, not far from the Rockefeller Museum.

The Nature and Parks Authority replied that “This territory is a national park and open public space, outside the Muslim cemetery. The Muslim Waqf, unlawfully and in violation of court orders, placed several graves there. During works with the Jerusalem Development Authority to develop the open public space, a shallow dig was uncovered with several bones in it. The matter is being investigated. The works at the site are ongoing under court orders.”

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