Clashes, Arrests in Jerusalem's Sheikh Jarrah After Kahanist Lawmaker Reopens Office

Far-right lawmaker Itamar Ben-Gvir's reopening of his makeshift parliamentary office in the East Jerusalem neighborhood sparks clashes between Israelis and Palestinians

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Israeli forces detain a man in Sheikh Jarrah, on Sunday.
Israeli forces detain a man in Sheikh Jarrah, on Sunday.Credit: Noam Rivkin Panton

Far-right lawmaker Itamar Ben-Gvir reopened his makeshift parliamentary office in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah on Sunday and declared "we are the landlords," prompting protests by Palestinian residents and violent clashes.

At least 12 people – both Palestinians and Jewish right-wing activists – were detained by Israeli police, who were deployed to Sheikh Jarrah in the dozens throughout the day.

After a few relatively quiet hours, violence resumed on Sunday evening, with dozens of Jewish and Palestinian youth hurling stones at each other. The Red Crescent reported 14 Palestinians wounded, including four by rubber-tipped bullets and another by a stun grenade. 

Israeli officers in Sheikh Jarrah, on Sunday.Credit: Ohad Zwigenberg

Police forces also had to intervene when Ahmed Tibi, an Arab Knesset member from the Joint List, and Arieh King, Jerusalem's pro-settler deputy mayor, scuffled.

Ahmed Tibi and Arieh King fight in Sheikh Jarrah, on Sunday.

The last time Ben-Gvir opened a makeshift bureau in the neighborhood was just days before the May fighting between Israel and Hamas, as Sheikh Jarrah was in turmoil over plans to evacuate Palestinian families for Jewish settlers. He eventually dismantled his bureau following a request from then-Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

A senior Hamas official told Haaretz that the group plans to use the current moment to pressure Israel via Egyptian mediators to bring calm to Sheikh Jarrah, as well as to improve the situation in the Gaza Strip. At the same time, Hamas' leadership, according to the source, is keen to avoid any significant escalation.

Itamar Ben-Gvir's makeshift office in Sheikh Jarrah, East Jerusalem, on Sunday.Credit: Ohad Zwigenberg

In a statement, Ben-Gvir said that "A murderous terror organization cannot operate in Jerusalem. Vehicles are set ablaze, children are getting hurt. They threaten us and the State of Israel."

Ben-Gvir responded to Hamas' call for all Palestinians to join the struggle in the West Bank: “Every day, Hamas attempts to cause chaos in Jerusalem, and every day, Jews here are harmed by this. Thus, I will not acknowledge their threats, and I hope the Israeli government will understand that this is how a terror organization must be dealt with. We must respond without humiliation and without surrender, but with force, and as Jews.”

“The settlers' aggression, headed by Ben-Gvir, is a play with fire that can flare up the area,” said Hamas spokesperson in Jerusalem Muhammad Hamadeh. He warned Israel against resuming its activity in the East Jerusalem neighborhood and called on Palestinians to support the struggle. Hamadeh said that all West Bank villages and cities will turn into a space of confrontation with the occupation and the settlers. 

Ben-Gvir's supporters, surrounded by Israeli officers, in Sheikh Jarrah, on Sunday.Credit: Ohad Zwigenberg

Senior Palestinian official Hussein al-Sheikh, a close associate of President Mahmoud Abbas and member of the PLO's Executive Committee, said that the Palestinian leadership in the West Bank is in close contact with world leaders to "stop the repression of Palestinians in East Jerusalem," which he dubbed "deportation by occupation forces."

Clashes in Sheikh Jarrah began on Saturday after Ben-Gvir announced his intention to reopen the office.

In his statement, Ben-Gvir also mentioned that a fire had broken out on Friday in the apartment of an Israeli family living in the neighborhood. The family was not at home at the time and firefighters brought the blaze under control. Arson is suspected according to preliminary findings. “If the police are not there, I will be there,” said Ben-Gvir.

In Saturday's clashes, two Israelis suffered light to moderate injuries. A 20-year-old was injured by stone-throwing and another individual, also around 20 years old, was wounded in what local residents say was a car-ramming attack. 

Six people were arrested during the clashes on Saturday, including the driver of the vehicle that had hit one of the men. The driver, a Palestinian, was arrested by police and claimed to have accidentally hit him after being sprayed with pepper spray.

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