Shooting attack in West Bank after Jerusalem clashes renewed last night

What happened: This morning three Palestinians opened fire toward an IDF Border Police base on the northern edge of the West Bank in an unusual daylight shooting attack. According to initial reports, two of the three gunmen were subsequently killed and the third was seriously injured and evacuated to a hospital. All three men were carrying Carlo sub machine guns.

  • The shooting attack followed a night of heightened tensions in Jerusalem as Palestinian residents clashed with Israel Police over the imminent eviction of several families from the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood.
  • Palestinian residents attacked police officers with stones and firecrackers, as well as torched a vehicle owned by a Jewish resident. Fifteen rioters were arrested. Several Jewish residents of the adjacent Shimon Hatzadik neighbourhood drew handguns in response to the rioters.
  • During Ramadan Palestinian residents in Sheikh Jarrah have been setting up tables outside the homes of Jewish residents for their nightly feasts.
  • Yesterday, MK Itamar Ben Gvir (Otzma Yehudit) set up a makeshift office at the site. He said that he had done so to ensure that the police deal with the Arab rioters who are harming the Jewish residents of the Shimon Hatzadik neighbourhood.
  • Videos on social media showed Palestinian and Jewish crowds confronting each other soon after Thursday’s meal. One Palestinians was pepper sprayed when he approached the Jewish group, which resulted in chairs and rocks being thrown towards the Jewish residents, who threw stones in return before fleeing into a building. Two young Palestinians dismantled the improvised MK’s office and tore down the banner hanging over it.
  • Tensions have risen in the city since the start of Ramadan. Palestinians protested at Damascus Gate in late April after Israel Police put up barricades at the popular gathering place during Ramadan. Another trigger is President Mahmoud Abbas’ decision to postpone the Palestinian elections this summer.
  • Hamas is trying to stoke the tensions further in the city and in the West Bank as it is disappointed with Abbas’s decision. On Tuesday night, the armed wing of Hamas warned Israel that it will pay a “heavy price” if it evicts families from the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood.
  • Mohammed Deif, a Hamas commander, said: “The Qassam Brigades will not stand idly by in the face of attacks on the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood. “They will pay a heavy price if the aggression against our people in the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood does not stop immediately.”
  • Yesterday, several incendiary fire balloons were launched from Gaza, setting on fire 6 areas around the Strip. Two of the fires ignited in the Be’eri forest, and another four in the Kissufim forest, two nature reserves located on the border of Israel and Gaza, a spokesperson for the Jewish National Fund said.

Context: This morning’s attack is the second major shooting to happen in the West Bank this week. On Sunday, three young civilian Israelis were targeting in a drive-by shooting attack at Tapuah junction, in which one subsequently died on Wednesday night.

  • The battle over legal ownership of several buildings in the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood has been ongoing for the last 15 years in Israeli courts.
  • Earlier this year, the Jerusalem District Court upheld an October 2020 Jerusalem Magistrate Court decision that ruled the ownership of land belonged to the Jewish group Nahalat Shimon Co and ordered 25 Palestinians from four families to vacate properties they are living in by 2 May 2021. Following this decision, the residents appealed to the Supreme Court, who gave both sides until 6 May to reach a compromise. They failed to do so, and the Supreme Court will make a ruling on 10 May.
  • According to the Supreme Court, the land in question in Sheikh Jarrah, adjacent to the tomb of Shimon Hatzaddik, was “owned by Chief Rabbi (Hacham Bashi) Avraham Ashkenazi and Chief Rabbi Meir Orbach until the War of Independence [1948], after they purchased it in 1875 from its Arab owners”.
  • Subsequently, two Jewish organisations, Va’ad Eidat HaSfaradim and Va’ad HaKlali L’Knesset Yisrael, worked to register the land with British Mandatory government in 1946.
  • After the 1948 War, Palestinian families who were refugees and lost their homes inside Israel were resettled in the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood by UNRWA and the Jordanian government.
  • Following the 1967 Six-Day War, Israeli forces captured the area and the state confiscated the homes under Israel’s Absentee Property Law. The properties were subsequently registered with Israeli authorities under the two Jewish organisations in 1973. In 2003, the land was sold to the pro-settlement group Nahalat Shimon.
  • In 2020, the Magistrate Court noted, “Throughout all of the deliberations, the defendants claimed through their counsel that they were not tenants but rather held the property rights …  apparently, as they realised that they had not convinced the Court that they were the owners of the property, the defendants claimed for the first time that they are tenants who should not be removed from their homes.”

Looking ahead: Israel police have deployed extra forces in Jerusalem ahead of the last Friday prayers of Ramadan, against the backdrop of the warning issued by Hamas commander Deif.

  • Two IDF battalions have been sent to reinforce the troops in the West Bank and will remain there over the weekend, and additional units are gearing to join them if necessary.
  • With the Supreme Court to issue its verdict around the same time as Jerusalem Day (10 May) and with Nakba Day on 15 May fast approaching, the IDF is preparing for further violence in the city and the West Bank.

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