Israeli forces arrests 20 Palestinians in Damascus Gate crackdown

Israeli forces arrests 20 Palestinians in Damascus Gate crackdown
The Damascus Gate is one of the few public spaces in Jerusalem available for Palestinians to gather and celebrate. Israeli police have been reinforcing their presence at the site since last year.
3 min read
West Bank
05 April, 2022
Israeli police reinforced its presence at the Damascus Gate in Jerusalem since the beginning of Ramadan. [Getty]

Israeli police arrested 20 Palestinians of various ages at the Damascus Gate square in Jerusalem on Monday, the spokesperson of the Jerusalem Detainees Families' Committee, Amjad Abu Asab, told The New Arab.

Clashes between Palestinians and Israeli police at the Damascus Gate square in Jerusalem occurred following a visit to the site by Israeli foreign minister Yair Lapid.

"A few hours after Lapid's tour, families gathered at the Damascus Gate," Abu Asab said. "The Israeli police began to disperse people and clashes erupted, with Israeli police beating and arresting young men."

Tensions at the Damascus Gate have been simmering for weeks, and increased dramatically since the beginning of Ramadan.

"On the first day [of Ramadan], they installed metal barriers to prevent people from sitting on the sides," Abu Asab said. "Then they installed a mobile police station, and on Monday, Lapid came to tour the place."

"Israeli forces have killed, beaten and arrested people at the Damascus Gate over the past years, and yet Palestinians continue to be present there in large numbers on every occasion."

"It is the only space we have available to gather and celebrate," he added.

Lapid toured the area accompanied by the Israeli police commissioner and members of his party, in a move that was criticized by the Israeli minister of defence Benny Gantz as "provocative" and "might undermine stability", Israeli media reported.

Last year, Israeli police attempted to block Palestinians away from gathering at the Damascus Gate, leading to a wave of protests across the city.

"Israelis talk about defusing tensions in the city, but in reality, they continue to escalate them," said Abu Asab.

"For three days in a row, the police have not stopped harassing people who are gathering post-Iftar. They are making the month of Ramadan a month of clashes," he added.

In early March, Yair Lapid met with Jordan's King Abdullah in Amman and discussed ways to lower tensions in Jerusalem ahead of Ramadan. The meeting was followed by King Abdullah's visit to Ramallah to meet with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas for the same purpose.

Yet tensions have continued to increase over the weeks, particularly after the Israeli government's decision to allow Israeli settlers to enter Al-Aqsa Mosque during Ramadan, which also coincides with the Jewish holiday of Passover.

The situation escalated in the last two weeks with a series of stabbing and shooting attacks by Palestinians that killed 11 Israelis. The Israeli army, on its side, killed five Palestinians and wounded 14 during two military raids in the Jenin region.