RAMALLAH: The international community must prevent Israel’s “dangerous” escalation of activities in Jerusalem amid a surge in violence and arrests, Palestine’s Minister of Jerusalem Affairs Fadi Al-Hadmi has said.
His appeal came as the Israeli army and police escalated incursions into Al-Aqsa Mosque two days before the end of Ramadan, and stepped up arrests of Palestinians in East Jerusalem and the West Bank.
Palestinian sources said that Israeli authorities rounded up 13 people at dawn on Wednesday.
On Wednesday afternoon, many Israeli police and border guard personnel stormed the Dome of the Rock courtyard in Al-Aqsa Mosque to remove Palestinian flags for the second time that day.
Palestinian sources said the Israeli forces first stormed the mosque at dawn, removing and confiscating a banner hanging on a pillar.
But the initial activity failed to lead to the lowering of the Palestinian flag, so Israeli authorities returned to storm the mosque, using stairs to confiscate the flag.
Al-Hadmi condemned the developments that have taken place in Jerusalem in recent weeks.
He referred especially to attacks on worshipers, as well as restrictions on prayers in Al-Aqsa Mosque during the month of Ramadan, and in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre during Holy Saturday.
Al-Hadmi said: “The occupation police brutally assaulted worshipers in Al-Aqsa Mosque and imposed restrictions on the worshipers’ entry to clear the way for settlers’ incursions into the mosque.
“They also assaulted the participants in the Holy Saturday celebrations and prevented large numbers of them from reaching the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.”
The minister also warned that extensive settlement plans were being prepared in various Israeli committees.
He referred to a plan to demolish dozens of commercial establishments in the Wadi Al-Joz neighborhood, to implement the so-called “Silicon Valley” plan, and to build hundreds of settlement units on Palestinian land in the city.
Al-Hadmi said: “Once again, recent developments in the occupied city of Jerusalem have proven beyond any doubt that the occupation is the cause of the conflict in the city and that settler violence and violations are the fuel of this conflict.
“The desired security and stability in the city will be achieved in the event of an end to the occupation.”
Al-Hadmi’s remarks came as Ramzi Khoury, head of the Higher Presidential Committee to Follow up on Churches Affairs in Palestine, called on Christian churches around the world to put pressure on Israeli authorities to end incursions.
Khoury said that the Israeli police or other authorities have “no right” to impose restrictions or prevent worshipers from practicing their religion.
In his message, Khoury called on churches around the world to “work seriously” and “put pressure on governments” to preserve what remains of Palestine’s Christian community.
He said that Christians were being subjected to many pressures — through the occupation’s restrictions on their practice of religious rituals, as well as repeat incursions.
On Wednesday, several Palestinian citizens were severely injured after Israeli army attacks targeted the entrance to Aqabat Jaber camp, south of Jericho.
Israeli settlers — with the protection of soldiers — demolished several shops in the old vegetable market “Al-Hisba” in the Old City of Hebron in preparation for building new settlement units in their place.
Imad Hamdan, director general of the Hebron Rehabilitation Committee, said that at least five shops were demolished in the area.
They were completely closed and isolated from Palestinians by the Israeli army for more than 25 years, as residents and shop owners are prohibited from entering or accessing the site.
On the other hand, the area is entirely open to settlers, who — under the protection of the occupation forces — demolished at least five buildings in preparation for seizing the land and constructing new settlement units.
According to the data of the future budget, almost $1 billion will be directed to widen the road leading to the Beit El settlement, widen the road between the Ariel junction and the Tapuah (Za’atra) junction, develop the eastern ring road in Jerusalem, the Qalandia settlement road, the Alfei Menashe settlement road and rehabilitate Route 60 that crosses the West Bank.
The multi-year plan also includes the development of other settlement roads in the vicinity of Nablus, Salfit and Qalqilya.
Palestinian political analyst Ghassan al-Khatib told Arab News that the measures by the Israeli government came as part of its promise to voters during the election campaign to achieve the total annexation of Jerusalem.
Al-Khatib added that successive Israeli governments — more than 50 years after the initial occupation of Jerusalem — have been left frustrated at their failure to annex the city, as well as their inability to subdue Palestinian nationalism.
“The current Israeli government is trying to achieve its goals of annexing East Jerusalem and sending a message to the Israeli public that it differs from previous governments in this regard and is continuing its attempts to annex, but their attempts have not succeeded,” Al-Khatib told Arab News.
Also on Wednesday, Israeli authorities ordered Palestinians to stop work on the construction of three houses and two barracks in Ni’lin, west of Ramallah.
Israeli sources revealed on Wednesday that Israel had allocated billions of dollars to develop roads and infrastructure for settlements in the West Bank and Jerusalem.
Israel’s Channel 7 said that Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich agreed with Transport Minister Miri Regev on the plan.
The funds will be allocated from the general budget every year.