Israel has launched a new assault on Palestinians in occupied Jerusalem—with plans to destroy a Muslim cemetery to make way for a new Israeli “national park.”
Israeli border cops have repeatedly assaulted protesters and Palestinians trying to defend the cemetery and their family members’ graves.
Video footage captured last Friday shows Israeli forces firing teargas and sound grenades at crowds of Palestinians outside the Al-Yusufiyah cemetery.
Footage also shows cops forcibly removing Palestinians from their families’ gravesides—beating and arresting them.
Israel plans to destroy part of the site to construct the park, which it hopes to open in mid‑2022. On Sunday, an Israeli court upheld the “clearance” work.
Workers from the Israeli‑controlled Jerusalem municipality and the Israel Nature and Parks Authority exposed human remains during excavations three weeks ago.
Since then, Palestinians have increased their presence at the graveyard. This includes those going to protect their dead, and confront Israeli forces.
At least three Palestinians were wounded and seven detained on Friday following Muslim prayers at the site, in addition to dozens of others over the past few weeks.
Omar Rashadeh, 18, was arrested by Israeli forces at the cemetery on Monday of last week—then banned from attending the site.
He told the Al Jazeera news website, “Occupation forces assaulted me with heavy beating during my arrest while I was present to protect my grandfather’s grave.
“Despite being banned from the cemetery, I come every day.
“I will remain here night and day to defend the grave of my grandfather, who died last year and who was compassionate to me for 17 years.”
Israel’s plan to destroy the cemetery for a national park is part of its decades-long attempt to remove a Palestinian presence from east Jerusalem.
It has kept this side of the Palestinian city under military occupation for more than 50 years, after invading it in 1967.
A Palestinian uprising earlier this year stopped Israel’s attempts to evict Palestinians from their homes in the east Jerusalem neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah.
Israeli attacks on protesters there led to mass protests and a general strike across all of Palestine—including the occupied West Bank, Jerusalem and inside Israel’s “official” borders.
The uprising contributed to the downfall of a right wing Israeli government led by Binaymin Netanyahu.
But since a new government was elected, the Palestinian Authority (PA), which governs in the West Bank, has tried to restart negotiations with Israel and cracked down on Palestinian activists.
Once again Israel is turning the screws on Palestinians.
It has threatened to force power cuts on the West Bank to punish the impoverished PA—which depends on Israel for power—for unpaid debts.
And it has restarted its drive to push Palestinians out of Jerusalem.
But Palestinians in Jerusalem are still resisting.