RAMALLAH: The far-right Israeli government was on Thursday accused of taking advantage of the Jewish holidays to turn the Palestinian crisis into a religious conflict.
Palestinian National Council President Rawhi Fattouh made the remarks to Arab News as Israeli authorities closed the Kerem Shalom and Erez crossings with the Gaza Strip from Thursday until Sunday, citing the Jewish holidays.
Jewish settlers performed collective rituals in the courtyards of Al-Aqsa Mosque on Thursday.
Fattouh criticized the action as an attempt to transform the area into a place of worship for Jews as well.
Palestinians from Jerusalem said that Israeli authorities had been preventing the entry of worshipers to Al-Aqsa Mosque since Wednesday evening and throughout Thursday, which they say happens on all Jewish holidays and occasions.
Dozens of settlers stormed the Al-Aqsa compound on Thursday under protection from the Israeli police, performing Talmudic rituals at the gates of the mosque.
The Israeli armed forces also launched a massive campaign of arrests and raids on citizens’ homes in the cities of the West Bank, rounding up 17 Palestinians.
Eight citizens were injured during the Israeli army’s raid at dawn on Thursday on the Aqbat Jaber camp in Jericho.
The armed forces also notified the owners of 17 agricultural facilities, mobile homes, roads, and electricity grid lines in the town to stop construction in Aqraba, south of Nablus.
Citing settler violence as the main reason, 178 people, including 78 children, began dismantling and leaving their homes in the Palestinian herding community of Ein Samiya in eastern Ramallah on Thursday.
“These families are not leaving by choice,” said Yvonne Helle, UN acting humanitarian coordinator for the Occupied Palestinian Territory.
“The Israeli authorities have repeatedly demolished homes and other structures they own and have threatened to destroy their only school,” said Helle.
“At the same time, land available for livestock grazing has decreased due to settlement expansion.
“Both children and adults have been subjected to settler violence.”
The coordinator added: “We are witnessing the tragic consequences of longstanding Israeli practices and settler violence.”
Repeated demolitions, settlement expansion, loss of access to grazing land, and settler violence continue to cause concern about the coercive environment Palestinians are subject to, which is leading to increased humanitarian troubles.
Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh described the Israeli authorities’ displacement of the residents of Ein Samiya and the displacement plans that affect about 250 communities along the eastern slopes of the West Bank as a form of ethnic cleansing.
The actions fall within a systematic policy of expansion, through which the Israeli occupation authorities aim to seize Palestinian land to expand their settlements.
Shtayyeh pointed out that residents of the Palestinian villages that are targeted now live in fear of occupation soldiers and settlers.
Settlers from the Karmi Zur settlement near Hebron destroyed five planted dunums (1.2 acres) south of Beit Ummar by spraying them with toxic pesticides, which destroyed the entire crop.
They also attacked Palestinian homes in the village of Burqa, northwest of Nablus, and burned sheep pens and olive groves.
They fired live ammunition under the protection of the Israeli army while bulldozers leveled lands belonging to Palestinians.
Mustafa Barghouti, secretary-general of the Palestinian National Initiative Party, told Arab News that what is currently taking place is part of an Israeli war to break Palestinian resistance and advance the occupation’s plan to annex and Judaize the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
Barghouti added that “what happened in Ein Samiya…reminds us of the Israeli massacres committed against the Palestinians in 1948.”
He said that the Palestinian leadership must respond to these challenges without hesitation, unite Palestinians and take effective measures to stop the perpetuation of violence.