Tensions in Jerusalem Flare Up But Will It Lead to New Confrontation Between Israel & Hamas?
05:08 GMT 13.03.2022 (Updated: 17:25 GMT 15.01.2023)
In recent weeks, Israel has carried out a number of arrests in the east of the disputed city and the West Bank. Several Palestinians have been shot dead amid clashes with the IDF, and a Ramallah-based political analyst says it is just a matter of time until the situation spirals out of control.
For the past 18 days, the world has been following Russia's military operation in Ukraine, meant to demilitarise and "de-Nazify" the country.
But while the globe has been busy, Israel, says Hani Al Masri, a Ramallah-based political analyst, has been using the events in Ukraine to "increase its persecution of the Palestinians".
In recent weeks, tensions
between Israel and the Palestinians have escalated.
Israel continues to confiscate Palestinian properties in the disputed Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood in East Jerusalem, prompting a confrontation with local residents.
Tel Aviv continues to push forward with its policy of demolishing the houses of those suspected of terrorist activity, and the authorities continue to arrest and shoot Palestinians, as was the case last week in the city of Jenin amid clashes with Hamas loyalists. The group governs the Gaza Strip and is deemed a terrorist organisation by Israel.
In response, Palestinians have stepped up their assaults
on Israeli military personnel and civilians. The past week has seen several such terrorist acts
, resulting in injuries to several policemen.
According to Al Masri, the Israeli government sees the Russian operation in Ukraine "as an opportunity".
"Although there are some liberals in this government, the majority of ministers are extreme. And they compete with each other in who can persecute the Palestinians even harsher", he explained.
Yet, the escalation of tensions cannot be attributed to Israel and the Ukrainian crisis only. And the analyst says the spike in violence is also connected to internal Palestinian issues.
Hamas' frustration with the lack of progress in reconstructing the Gaza Strip is among them. Last May, the Islamic group fired a barrage of rockets at Israel in response to what it saw as a violation of Palestinian rights on the Temple Mount, a plateau sacred to Muslims and Jews alike.
At the time, Israel retaliated, launching "Operation Guardian of the Walls", that devastated the infrastructure of the Gaza Strip. When the campaign ended, Egypt, which brokered the truce, promised to help in the reconstruction process. It pledged Palestinians half a billion dollars and sent its construction firms to the area, but almost one year down the line Al Masri says nothing has been achieved.
"The enclave is still in ruins. There has been no progress in negotiations around the exchange of prisoners so the tensions in Jerusalem and the West Bank are just a message sent by Hamas [that they can set the situation on fire - ed.]. But [having said that] I doubt they want to see an increase of violence".
The recent Israeli operation
caused significant damage to Hamas' military capabilities. During the eleven days of fighting, the IDF struck over 1,500 terror targets, including launch sites, and command and control centres. They dealt a devastating blow to the group's tunnel system, destroyed weapons depots, and killed hundreds of Hamas and Islamic Jihad operatives.
It is unlikely that Hamas, which is struggling to raise money, would be willing to go to another war with Israel, but Al Masri says the situation is so explosive that it could still spiral out of control.
Since 2015, there has been an increase in the number of so-called lone wolf attacks, individuals who carry out terrorist acts but who do not affiliate themselves with any group.
They are believed to have been pushed to terrorist activity not only by Israel's policies, but also by the dire economic situation in the West Bank, and the analyst believes they might become a trigger again and an element that could bring about another escalation of tensions.
"People are increasingly angry. We have a month before Ramadan [a holy month for Muslims - ed.] and this means that we might see another confrontation between Israel and Hamas. It might not be an Intifada, but it might be just as destructive as the Guardian of the Walls", Al Masri concluded.
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