As Violence in Jerusalem Spirals, Netanyahu 'Firmly Rejects' Pressure Not to Expand Jewish Presence

The prime minister's comments come as Palestinians face evictions in East Jerusalem neighborhood Sheikh Jarrah, which have sparked local and international outrage

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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during a ceremony to mark Yom HaZikaron, Israel's Memorial Day for fallen soldiers, at the Yad LeBanim House in Jerusalem on April 13, 2021
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during a ceremony to mark Yom HaZikaron, Israel's Memorial Day for fallen soldiers, at the Yad LeBanim House in Jerusalem on April 13, 2021Credit: DEBBIE HILL / AFP

Israel "firmly rejects" pressure not to build in Jerusalem, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Sunday following spreading international condemnation of planned evictions of Palestinians from homes in the city claimed by Jewish settlers. 

Netanyahu added that Israel will not add any extremist element to undermine peace in Jerusalem: "We will impose law and order aggressively and responsibly. We will continue to safeguard freedom of worship for all religions but will not allow violent riots."

At the same time, he said, "I say to the terror groups: Israel will respond with force to any act of aggression from the Gaza Strip." 

Jerusalem has been the capital of the nation of the Jewish people for thousands of years, Netanyahu said. "We firmly reject pressure not to build in Jerusalem. And sadly, these pressures have been increasing recently. I say to our closest friends: Israel is the capital of Israel. Just as every nation builds its capital and builds in its capital, we also reserve the right to build Jerusalem and build in Jerusalem. This is what we have done, and this is what we will continue to do." 

Jordan warned Israel on Sunday to stop what it described as "barbaric" attacks on worshipers at the Al-Aqsa mosque, and said it would be stepping up international pressure, an official statement said. The kingdom said Israel should respect worshipers and international law safeguarding Arab rights in the disputed city.

The eviction of Palestinians from homes on land claimed by Jewish settlers in East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah has drawn widespread international condemnation, from several U.S. democrats as well as Egypt. 

Senators Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Chris Van Hollen and Chris Murphy have called on Israel to stop efforts at evicting Palestinian residents from their homes in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah based on claims by Jewish settlers, while Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Gregory Meeks, Andy Levin, Pramila Jayapal and Ayanna Pressley also voiced their dismay.

The U.S., Turkey, and Pope Francis also condemned the widespread violent clashes in Jerusalem. 

"The United States is extremely concerned about ongoing confrontations in Jerusalem, including on the Haram al-Sharif / Temple Mount and in Sheikh Jarrah, which have reportedly resulted in scores of injured people," State Department spokesperson Ned Price said in perhaps the Biden administration's most in-depth comment on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to date.

"Violence breeds violence, stop clashes," Pope Francis said to pilgrims at Saint Peter Square in Rome, referring to the clashes in recent days.

Turkey's President Erdogan tweeted in Hebrew that "We will continue to stand by our Palestinian brothers and sisters under any circumstances."

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