How did this start? We answer your questions on what’s going on in Israel

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The Iron Dome intercepts rockets fired from Gaza over Tel Aviv Tuesday, May 11, 2021. (Source: Twitter)

The situation in Israel has been tense for weeks leading up to an expected Supreme Court ruling on Jewish/Palestinian property rights in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of East Jerusalem. Many of you have reached out to us on our social media accounts asking us how to help you better understand the current crisis following the latest barrage of rockets from Gaza.

Here are some of your most asked questions.

How did this start?

That answer is complicated due to the ongoing geo-political situation in the Middle East and because of this there’s never one overall reason, but the short answer is this: Protests have been steadily escalating in Jerusalem ahead of an expected Supreme Court ruling on evicting Palestinian residents living in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood. The ruling has now been delayed to at least June.

Protests reached a new height Friday following evening prayers at Al Aqsa mosque. Following clashes with police Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip, issued a statement:

“We salute the people of al-Aqsa, who oppose the arrogance of the Zionists, and we call on our people in Palestine to support their brothers by all means.”

Hamas then issued several ultimatums demanding Israel remove security forces from the Al Aqsa compound. The terrorist organization then began firing hundreds of rockets into Israel on Monday.

Why is Israel entering the Al Aqsa mosque compound?

We got several variations of this question, ranging from “why is Israel violating holy Muslim sites” to “why did Israel enter the compound?” Al Aqsa mosque is the third holiest site in Islam and it sits above the Western Wall complex, it is administered by Jordan and security falls under Israel.

Here are the facts:

  • Israel stepped up security in the Old City and around the mosque compound during Ramadan following several street protests leading up to the expected Sheikh Jarrah Supreme Court ruling. The new security measures have been in place since April.
  • From the Associated Press: “Palestinians have clashed with Israeli police on a nightly basis since the start of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. The tensions began when police placed barricades outside the Old City’s Damascus Gate, where Muslims traditionally gather to enjoy the evening after the daytime fast.” Police say the barricades were put in place for security reasons, Palestinians say they have always been allowed to gather at Damascus Gate during Ramadan.
  • Friday, May 7, following evening prayers attended by an estimated 90,000 people protests broke out leading to clashes with security forces. A part of the crowd began chanting “bomb Tel Aviv.” Earlier, protesters holding Hamas flags were seen on the compound.
  • From the Associated Press: “It was unclear what sparked the violence, but videos circulating online showed worshippers throwing chairs, shoes and rocks at police, who fired stun grenades and rubber-coated bullets to disperse them. Smaller clashes broke out elsewhere in Jerusalem.”
Protesters are seen flying the flag of Hamas above the Al Aqsa mosque, Monday, May 10, 2021.
  • Protests occurred again on Saturday, Sunday and Monday nights. On Monday Hamas flags were once again seen flown above the mosque. From the Associated Press: “Police defended their actions as security moves, but these were seen as provocations by Muslims who accuse Israel of threatening their freedom of worship.”
  • Several hundred Palestinians have been injured in the clashes, as well as several dozen officers, in some of the worst violence Jerusalem has seen in years.

Did Jews set fire to the Al Aqsa mosque?

Social media is filled with video of a massive crowd at the Western Wall cheering while there is a fire above at the Al Aqsa compound.

Here are the facts:

  • During clashes at the compound on Monday night Palestinians fired fireworks at Jewish worshippers below at the Western Wall.
  • There was a large crowd Monday night at the Wall due to it being Yom Yerushalayim, or Jerusalem Day, which marks the reunification of Jerusalem and the establishment of Israeli control over the Old City in the aftermath of the 1967 Six Day War.
  • Video shows the crowd already cheering, as they have in years past on the holiday, before a firework hits a tree setting it on fire.

Why isn’t there international outcry against the rocket fire?

Multiple countries have issued statements condemning the firing of rockets by Hamas into Israel:

  • From Reuters: U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Monday said the rocket attacks from Gaza against Israel should stop “immediately,” and he urged all sides to take steps to reduce tensions.
  • From Reuters: UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said on Monday that the United Kingdom condemned the firing of rockets at Jerusalem and locations within Israel.
  • From Reuters: The European Union condemned Palestinian rocket attacks into Israel, calling on all sides to aim for a de-escalation and to prevent further civilian casualties.
  • From the CBC: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau calls the rocket attacks by Hamas unacceptable.

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