Clashes in East Jerusalem. Photo posted on the Arabbab forum.
Palestinian protestors and Israeli police forces met with stones and rubber bullets in East Jerusalem this morning. Our Observers there, Israeli and Palestinian, give us their views on the clashes.
Unlike the west of the city which is located in Israel, East Jerusalem, or the Old City, remains part of the Palestinian Territories. Sacred to both Jews and Muslims, the ancient district has seen continued clashes for the past month.
The clashes first broke out when Palestinians came out in protest of Benjamin Netanyahu's decision to list the biblical Tomb of the Patriarchs (situated in the West Bank) as an Israeli heritage site.
On March 9 tensions were heightened further after it was announced that Israel would build 1,600 homes in East Jerusalem, breaking a five month settlement-freeze.
The last straw came on 15 March when the Israelis held an inauguration ceremony for the restored "Hurva" synagogue, located just 400 metres from the landmark al-Asqa mosque.
On Tuesday morning, the Israeli authorities deployed 3,000 police officers to the Old City to face protestors. Two officers and 16 protestors were injured; several arrests were made.
Abdel Fatah Iskafi runs a shop next to one of the gates to the Old City. His family lives in Sheikh Jarrah, a district in East Jerusalem which is currently facing expropriation.
When the Israelis inaugurated the synagogue yesterday the Jews had no problems getting through. But Muslims who want to pray in the al-Asqa mosque are not allowed past if they're under the age of 50. The situation is unbearable.
The peace talks have come to a standstill and settlements are spreading. The taxes they impose on us are getting higher, youths and students are systematically stopped and searched, and women are harassed. They're trying to uproot us from here. It's ethnic cleansing.
The clashes today came as no surprise. Protestors are not acting on the advice of Hamas [which called for a new Intifada on 16 March]. We're not expecting anyone, neither Hamas nor Fatah, to express our disdain on behalf of us. We've lost everything; come what may, this is still our land."
Ariel Woolf is a rabbinical school teacher in Efrat, a settlement near Hebron.
Concerning the Hurva synagogue, I don't think reopening it was done to provoke the Palestinians. It's just that as soon as we go near places considered sacred by the Muslims, feelings start running high. This synagogue is not new, just renewed; it's been there since 1700. The Palestinians moaned that the dome of the synagogue was higher than that of the al-Asqa mosque. But is that really important?
Access to the Old City was blocked because of security risks. We don't want people throwing stones at worshippers at the Wailing Wall.
As for the new settlements; Netanyahu talked of halting construction in November, but since then, Gilad Shalit hasn't been released and the Palestinians haven't done anything towards the peace process, so why stop building if we get nothing in return?"