U.S. tries to de-escalate crisis in Jerusalem
Foreign ministry officials spoke to their Israeli and Palestinian counterparts Friday night asking them to de-escalate the situation in Jerusalem and the West Bank. This was announced by US and Israeli officials.
Why It Matters: This is the first Israel-Palestinian crisis the Biden administration faces when it reconnects with the Palestinians after a long freeze on ties during the Trump presidency.
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The rise in tension comes at the most sensitive time of the calendar - the last days of Ramadan.
The news is drifting: Tensions have risen in Jerusalem in recent days as 300 Palestinians may have been evicted from homes they have lived in for more than 50 years in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of east Jerusalem.
In the past week, Palestinians have carried out several terrorist attacks against Israeli settlers and soldiers in the West Bank. One Israeli was murdered and another was badly wounded.
In recent weeks, Israeli settlers have carried out so-called "price tag" attacks against Palestinians in the West Bank, and Israeli right-wing activists attacked Palestinians in East Jerusalem.
Tensions peaked on Friday evening when Israeli police clashed with Palestinian believers in the Old City of Jerusalem and on the Temple Mount, where the Al-Aqsa Mosque is located. 20 Israeli police officers and more than 200 Palestinians were wounded.
State Department officials have been in contact with senior Israeli and Palestinian leaders and urged them to work together to ease tension and end the violence, State Department spokesman Ned Price said.
What they say: “It is absolutely important that all sides exercise restraint, refrain from provocative actions and rhetoric and preserve the historical status quo on the Haram al-Sharif / Temple Mount - in word and in practice. Executives across the spectrum must denounce all acts of violence. Security services must ensure the safety of all Jerusalemites and hold all perpetrators accountable, "Price said.
Palestinian Authority President Abbas said Friday evening that Israelis were responsible for the escalation and called on the international community to protect the Palestinian residents of Jerusalem.
Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu said after a security meeting he called on Saturday that Israel would uphold the rule of law in Jerusalem while protecting freedom of religion in Jerusalem.
The big picture: This escalation is taking place amid a deep political crisis in Israel and the Palestinian Authority. There are intensive talks in Israel about the formation of an alternative government. These efforts can be derailed because the new government needs the support of the Islamist Raam party.
On the other hand, Abbas has come under severe criticism for postponing the elections because he fears that his party will lose. Abbas tries to use the current crisis in Jerusalem to divert popular anger against Israel.
What's next? The Palestinians are trying to convene the UN Security Council in the coming days to discuss the situation in Jerusalem.
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