The (Un)Holy City: Violence Erupts in Jerusalem

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The GIMUN 2016 Annual Conference, held from March 7th to 11th at the Palais des Nations, in Geneva, gathered around 200 students for a model UN. Yes, it was over a month ago, but it turns out the GIMUN Chronicles journalists had not said their last word! When the conference ended, they still had a few more articles left for us…

Jerusalem.jpg
epa04298597 Palestinians throw stones on Israeli police (not seen) at Al-Aqsa compound in the old city of Jerusalem, at the end of the first Friday prayer in the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, 04 July 2104. Israeli authorities limited the age of Muslims from West Bank allowed to enter Al-Aqsa Mosque by the age of 50 for men and 40 for women, a very low numbers of Palestinians mange to attend the prayer. EPA/MAHFOUZ ABU TURK

 

By Gilad Bronshtein

Jerusalem has no single past. The historical narrative of the holy city is as changing as its ethnic and religious diversity. Home to some of the holiest sites of Israel’s major religions, the shifting identity of Jerusalem is made and remade with each telling of its long history. However, an unbearable consistency is provided by the reality of conflict within the disputed city. Jerusalem has long been a symbol of the fragile coexistence and volatile tension that underlie the nature of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  It is a microcosmic representation Israeli reality and a testament to the recent escalation in violence across the country. In September last year, following security warnings against impending riots, a special police force moved to quarantine the Temple Mount area in Jerusalem and prevent further escalation. Officers were confronted with armed resistance as large groups of men barricaded themselves within al-Aqsa mosque, throwing rocks and Molotov cocktails at police forces outside. Following a day of confrontations, the police finally managed to disperse the angry mob and defuse the situation. A search of the premises revealed a large stash of improvised explosives and other weapons that were later seized by the police. Scores of security officers and demonstrators were injured in the violent exchange. The incident struck echoes throughout the Palestinian streets and marked the beginning of the recent wave of terror attacks.

Since September last year, 35 people have been murdered in stabbing and shooting incidents across the country. An estimated 350 more have been injured. The majority of the attacks took place within the old city of Jerusalem and were perpetrated by Palestinian individuals acting independently. As much as 185 attackers have been shot and killed by Israeli security forces across the country. While claims against the police, condemning excessive use of force, have been voiced by both Israeli and Palestinian entities, the majority of assailants have been killed in the course of the violent attacks to prevent further loss of life. Israeli authorities stated Hamas and other fundamentalist groups are to be held responsible for the recent escalation. Government officials point at the mass of radical terrorist propaganda that has been circulating in the Palestinian streets for the past months. This propaganda has been inciting violence and encouraging the murder of Israeli Jews. Palestinian authorities, on the other hand, point a blaming finger at Israeli security forces for the initial violation of the status quo and the disproportionate use of force. Claims have been made against the police’s conduct during these incidents as most attackers are shot and killed rather than neutralized in other ways. While previous waves of terror attacks could easily be attributed to certain organizations or particular groups, these recent attacks are perpetrated by unknown and independent individuals. In the absence of a clear entity or partner for negotiation, attempts by authorities on both sides to de-escalate the violence have thus far been ineffective. Sources estimate that without the immediate intervention of political and religious leaders, the crisis is not likely to end soon.

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