Israel Must Do 'Everything Possible' to De-escalate Jerusalem Tensions, Senior Official Says

Political leaders fear that the clashes in East Jerusalem's Sheikh Jarrah, which involve provocations by right-wing activists, may bring about an escalation of the security situation in the West Bank and Gaza Strip

Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis
Ben Gvir in an apartment that burned down in Sheikh Jarrah, Sunday.
Ben Gvir in an apartment that burned down in Sheikh Jarrah, Sunday.Credit: Ohad Zwigenberg
Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis

MANAMA – A senior Israeli official called on Tuesday to “do everything possible” to prevent an escalation in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah, a day after a series of clashes between police, Palestinian protesters and right-wing activists took place in the flashpoint neighborhood.

On Monday, supporters of the Likud party rallied with Israeli flags near the site of the Palestinian protests, and far-right lawmaker Itamar Ben-Gvir returned to a makeshift office he had set up in the flashpoint neighborhood. Police used stun grenades to scatter young Palestinians who had gathered in the neighborhood.

Ben-Gvir, a member of the Religious Zionism party, ascribed his decision to open the office to a fire that broke out two days ago in a Sheikh Jarrah apartment where a Jewish family was living. He described the fire as one in a series of attacks against the family.

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“Jerusalem is a sensitive place,” said the official, who traveled with Prime Minster Naftali Bennett to Bahrain. “We cannot compromise on the security of the people who live there, we cannot give up even an inch. Yet we must also refrain from provocations that could lead us to a dark place,” he said.

Political leaders fear that the clashes in Sheikh Jarrah may bring about an escalation of the security situation in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

A poster with the image of Israeli lawyer and politician Itamar Ben-Gvir is seen in Sheikh Jarrah, East Jerusalem on Monday.Credit: AMMAR AWAD/ REUTERS

“When I see [Ofer] Cassif, [Ahmed] Tibi, and [Itamar] Ben-Gvir, it’s clear that people are drawn there to heat up the situation, to burn it all down,” he said.

The official added that a police plan has been implemented and that the Israeli government is supervising its implementation. “The state was established to exercise this sort of power, not private individuals,” he said. “We must do everything possible to prevent escalation. This could end badly.”

Clashes in the area on Sunday left 31 Palestinians lightly wounded, according to the Palestinian Red Crescent.

On Monday, the police announced that together with the Shin Bet, they had arrested two people suspected of using Molotov cocktails to torch the Jewish family's apartment. On Tuesday, the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court extended the custody of the two suspects in the firebombing, ordering one of them held for an additional seven days and the other for six more days.

In another development, the Jerusalem District Court convicted two East Jerusalem Palestinians on Tuesday of attacking a Jewish man in Sheikh Jarrah during the war that Israel and Hamas and its allies in Gaza fought in May of last year.

With reporting by Nir Hasson.

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