The heavy handed response to protests by Israeli forces has given a boost to Palestinian resistance, which has been marred by divisions for years.
In a month-long assault against the Palestinians of the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood in Jerusalem, the Israel Occupation Forces (IOF) continues to exert indiscriminate violence against an entirely unarmed civilian population.
From the neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah, to the al-Aqsa compound, and the West Bank and Gaza, the IOF have used brutal force against bare hands.
Omar Labban*,28, lives in the neighbourhood and tells TRT World, “People have been meeting everyday for a month now. Main gathering points are usually in front of the families [that are facing displacement] homes - the entrance to the street is now heavily guarded with IOF forces from all sides. The Palestinians are later dispersed and regroup in different areas.”
Omar says there is a heavy settler presence in the area and that “continued violence” from them is an effort to provoke protesters but that the police start intervening when settlers are moving into the area, to protect Israelis.
“They've been using extreme force to attack and arrest protesters in the neighbourhood. Using gas and stun grenades, skunk water, and rubber bullets as well as horses - also attacking property. This goes on from 7PM till around 2AM,” adds Labban.
Speaking to a number of people in Palestine, it becomes quickly apparent that they see the wounding, crippling, and killing of unarmed civilians as Israeli policy. Mariam Eido*, a Palestinian with Israeli citizenship, 33, joined the Sheikh Jarrah protests against the forced displacement of 70 Palestinian residents.
“Israeli forces and media classify the events as ‘clashes’. These are not clashes. What's happening is deliberate organised violence by Israeli police and by settlers against Palestinians in their homes, cities and streets. What’s happening in Sheikh Jarrah is something that has been going on for years; it's not new. It gives me hope that the cause is bringing more attention locally and globally despite the vicious violence in holy locations and attacks on protestors,” Eido says.
“Apartheid’s daily practices against an oppressed community are now documented and broadcasted in live streams to millions of screens.”
Muna Shewiki, a Master’s student in Political Economy from Jerusalem, adds:
“They are indiscriminate in their violence, they don’t care if it is a child or an elderly woman or man. It's the opposite - when we shout and alert them (to the vulnerable individuals) they become even more aggressive. This is all because we are holding a peaceful protest.”
Shewiki says that normally the passage to the neighbourhood is open and close to Jerusalem, and easy to pass through, but says that Israeli forces have now set up checkpoints all along the routes and staffed it with what she calls ‘occupation forces’.
“We do still enter through the routes that we know of because it is our neighbourhood but getting in the neighbourhood is difficult. It usually starts to get really monstrous after Iftar.”
All throughout yesterday Palestinians resisted violence and set tires alight in a retaliatory move against the illegal settlers' provocation. The scenes spread from Jerusalem to Nablus extending to Bethlehem and Nazareth, as a show of support.
In the al-Aqsa compound, Ramzi Sadek* from Bethlehem explains: “I do not hold the papers necessary to enter, I was smuggled in as others gather to defend our countrymen.”
He explains the scenes after the relatitory fire from Gaza, sounding the alarm in Jerusalem and calling for a 48-hour state of emergency in Israel.
“There is a widespread anxiety from the occupation after the resistance launched rockets on the outskirts of Jerusalem, this currently feels like a success as their fear has made them less barbaric then they have been these past days. They have now closed one of the entrances as they are trying to control who enters the compound, many are coming from all over to have Iftar in the last days of the holy month. Adrenaline is racing as the situation keeps changing.”
Shortly after, the situation did change suddenly: “Now there is a fire that is raging in the compound, IOF were shooting grenades at random and a tree is covered in flames. They have just started shooting rubber bullets at the crowd and they have already injured many.”
Videos were circulated showing the Israeli settlers on the other side of the compound celebrating the burning tree.
Hundreds of Israeli settlers gathered at the Western Wall and watched a blaze at Al Aqsa Mosque, one of the holiest sites for Muslims pic.twitter.com/QA72B5vQdM— TRT World (@trtworld) May 10, 2021
Israel launched a series of attacks against Gazan civilians that at the time of writing, killed 24, 9 of whom were children. Many are wounded and hospitals are once again a horrific battlefield because of yet another air strike. But the unity that is forming between Palestinians, torn apart by arbitrary borders, is seeing a new, or refreshed, cohesion despite Israeli attempts to the contrary.
Rula Nazzal tells us from the West Bank: “[The day before] Yesterday was the first mass protests in the West Bank and that brought us a lot closer. Today, people have been in the streets of Ramallah since 11AM. This is without an organised event, people are just organically taking to the streets. This is so rare for the West Bank where the Palestinian Authority and the Occupation forces have instigated extreme stagnancy. Usually the PA stops Palestinian marches that go from the city center towards Beit El and they were just watching us, knowing they couldn’t stop it.”
Palestinians are attempting to show signs of continued support for one another despite being confronted with different forms of assault from both the IOF and settlers. This is another chapter in the 73-year-long book of resistance that Palestinians continue to write. It is a call on the global community to action, not just in solidarity, but in action towards governments across the world. They call for the peaceful acknowledgement of their struggle through calls for the boycott of Israel, appeals for international intervention, and to continue spreading the message by any means available.
*All names have been changed to protect the identities of those interviewed