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Jerusalem Tensions Escalate As Netanyahu Pushes Settlement Expansion

Jerusalem saw some of its worst clashes in months over the weekend, after a three month-old Israeli baby was killed in an attack, and another Palestinian child was shot dead by Israeli officers in a separate incident.
Photo via Getty

Clashes between Palestinians and Israeli police continued through the weekend in East Jerusalem, where tensions have been on the rise for weeks as Israeli officials push to expand settlement and infrastructure construction in the occupied section of the city and the occupied West Bank.

Protests intensified after Israeli forces shot and killed 14-year-old Orwa Abd al-Wahhab Hammad, a Palestinian-American, at a Friday protest in Silwad, a village near Ramallah.


The Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) said it "managed to prevent an attack" when it fired on the boy as he prepared to throw a Molotov cocktail — which is a version of events that Palestinian officials deny. The boy's relatives in New Orleans said the IDF responds with fire to children throwing rocks.

"This all happens overseas, where kids throw rocks at military jeeps," Hakeem Khalek, the victim's uncle told the Times-Picayune newspaper. "And of course the Israeli army returned fire (and) we're not talking rubber bullets."

Riots erupt in East Jerusalem after death of Palestinian teen. Read more here.

Meanwhile on Sunday, Israeli officials confirmed that a woman who was injured last Wednesday when a Palestinian man drove into a crowd waiting at a railway stop in Jerusalem had died of her wounds. The car ramming also instantly killed a three-month old Israeli-American baby, Chaya Zissel Braun, and injured several people.

The second victim, Karen Mosquera, was a 22-year-old Ecuadorian national visiting Jerusalem, where she was reportedly in the process of converting to Judaism. Ecuador President Rafael Correa tweeted his condolences to the woman's family and said, "We will reject violence from wherever it comes."

Also on Sunday, Palestinians in East Jerusalem laid to rest the man responsible for that attack — 21-year-old Abdel-Rahman Shaloudi, who was shot dead by police as he tried to flee after the ramming attack, and who those attending his funeral hailed as a "martyr." His family said the attack was a traffic incident.


Israeli authorities had initially refused to turn his body over to the family, setting as a condition that no more than 20 people attend his funeral, according to Agence-France Presse, but they eventually agreed to allowing 70 people to attend.

But hundreds of Palestinians turned up for a separate, "symbolic" funeral for Shaloudi. Carrying an empty casket, they rallied through Silwan, the Palestinian neighborhood of Jerusalem that he lived in, which has been the stage to several clashes in recent months, and towards the al-Aqsa mosque compound, in the old city, also the site of weekly confrontations with police.

Footage shows Israeli forces storming al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem. Watch here.

Videos via Instagram

At least 18 Palestinians were arrested and at least 21 injured through the weekend, according to Haaretz, as they threw stones and firecrackers and were met with tear gas by police.

Jerusalem residents described the latest round of violence as the most severe during the wave of clashes that has gripped the city in the last several months.

During past days, Jerusalem was tenser/more violent than any time I can recall. Bibi elected to gratuitously pour kerosene on the flames

— Daniel Seidemann (@DanielSeidemann)October 27, 2014

Tensions in Jerusalem escalated in the aftermath of the kidnapping and killing of three young Israeli settlers last June — which also led up to the escalation of violence that culminated in an Israeli military offensive and ground invasion of Gaza during the summer.


Following the kidnapping, a Palestinian boy was kidnapped and torched to death in Jerusalem — sparking massive protests not seen in the occupied territories since the second intifada, more than a decade ago.

Confrontations and episodes of violence continued through the summer, as disputes over Palestinians' restricted access to the al-Aqsa mosque compound have regularly led to Friday clashes with police.

Earlier this month, an Israeli settler ran over and killed a Palestinian kindergarten girl and seriously injured another child. Another 12-year-old Palestinian boy was shot and killed in clashes with Israeli soldiers on October 16. In the video below, shared by Israeli human rights organization B'tselem, a Palestinian developmentally-disabled 11-year-old boy is arrested by Israeli forces in Hebron, on October 19, for throwing rocks.

Simmering tensions have also flared up in recent month over Israel's ongoing expansion into Palestinian parts of Jerusalem and into the West Bank through the construction of settlement that violate prior peace agreements and are considered illegal by the international community.

But ignoring Israel's growing isolation, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Monday he is fast-tracking the construction of 1,000 more homes for Israeli Jews in Palestinian East Jerusalem.

He also announced new roads and development projects in the occupied West Bank.

"The prime minister wants to demonstrate his commitment to Jerusalem," a senior Israeli official said of the announcement, according to the New York Times.


Jewish group crowd funds $90K for 'Third Temple' on Jerusalem's Temple Mount. Read more here.

Israel's housing minister, Uri Ariel also threw fuel to the flames when he said on Israeli TV that he plans to join the nearly 500 settlers who have moved to Silwan, in Jerusalem, home to 50,000 Palestinians.

Palestinian leaders slammed Netanyahu's announcement, which is also set to draw the condemnation of many in the international community.

"We believe such unilateral acts will lead to an explosion," Jibril Rajoub, a leader with the Palestinian Authority, told reporters at a Ramallah presser on Monday. "Mr. Netanyahu should not expect a white flag from the Palestinian people."

Netanyahu, who had already announced the deployment of more security forces in response to the recent clashes, also announced plans to stiffen penalties against Palestinian "rock throwers," including fining the parents of the children found throwing rocks.

Follow Alice Speri on Twitter: @alicesperi