Sheikh Jarrah clashes: 'Israel playing with fire,' Hamas warns

Tensions in Sheikh Jarrah were cited by Palestinian factions as one of the reasons for rocket fire towards Jerusalem last May.

 Arabs and Jews clash in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of east Jerusalem, February 13, 2022 (photo credit: JAMAL AWAD/FLASH90)
Arabs and Jews clash in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of east Jerusalem, February 13, 2022
(photo credit: JAMAL AWAD/FLASH90)

Violent clashes broke out between Arabs and Jews on Sunday as Otzma Yehudit head MK Itamar Ben-Gvir set up a temporary office in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of east Jerusalem and Palestinian factions warned of an escalation.

Israel Police arrested at least 12 suspects on Sunday during the riots, saying "Israel Police will continue to act with determination and zero tolerance for violence of any kind, violation of public order and attempts to harm police officers or civilians in violation of the law." Ben-Gvir's office was dismantled by police as well.

Police used sound grenades, rubber bullets and water cannons, among other riot dispersal methods, to disperse the crowds gathered in the neighborhood throughout the day, according to Palestinian reports. At least 14 Arabs were injured during the clashes, according to the Jerusalem Red Crescent.

Joint List MKs Ofer Cassif and Ahmed Tibi took part in the clashes on Sunday evening, with video from the scene showing the MKs struggling with right-wing protesters and former deputy-mayor Aryeh King as they worked their way towards a house belonging to an Arab family facing eviction in the neighborhood. Video from later in the evening showed Arabs throwing stones at police from the house.

Arabs also fired fireworks towards police during the clashes.

While attempts were reportedly made to reach a compromise with Ben-Gvir which would lead to him leaving the neighborhood, the talks reportedly failed, according to KAN news.

Jews, Arabs and police clash in Sheikh Jarrah, February 13, 2022 (Credit: Israel Police)

Palestinian factions warned that the violence would cause the situation to explode and called on Palestinians and Arabs to come to the neighborhood to clash with Jews. The Lebanese Al-Mayadeen TV reported that Hamas had told Egyptian mediators that the situation was a "dangerous escalation that cannot be tolerated," saying that Israel is "playing with fire again."

Hamas spokesman Muhammad Hamadeh warned that the factions "will not hesitate defend Sheikh Jarrah if the aggression of the occupation and its settlers continues."

"Our message to the whole world...Jerusalem is a red line and we are ready to offer the most precious in order to repel the occupation’s aggression against our people," said Hamadeh.

Hamas official Mushir al-Masri told Al-Mayadeen on Sunday evening that "the rocket launchers will always defend Jerusalem, and the resistance defends the people wherever they are," stressing that an equation of "escalation will be met by escalation" had been imposed by the Palestinian factions.

The Palestinian Islamic Jihad terrorist movement warned that "the continuation of the occupation and its settlers with the Israeli aggression against our people in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood is a brutal attack that cannot be tolerated," according to Palestinian media.

Ben-Gvir responded to the threats on Sunday afternoon, stressing that he would not be leaving and would not accept any ultimatum from the terrorist groups. "You're terrorists and need to be handled through a scope...Among other things, I'm handling how to carry out a targeted assassination for every Hamas terrorist," said the MK.

On Saturday night, clashes broke out between Jews and Arabs after Ben-Gvir announced that he would be setting up office, with police attempting to disperse the rioters. By the end of the night, six were arrested for disruption and stone-throwing. A few were injured.

Ben-Gvir had announced that he would be setting up the office in the garden of the Yoshvayev family whose house was set on fire over the weekend – and whose car was set aflame nine times – adding that he would stay there until the family receives 24/7 security.

"When Ben-Gvir says he'll open an office in Sheikh Jarrah, he isn't thinking about the family whose home was burnt or the young man who was hit by a car. His only concern is with cheap politics; from his end, it can all burn down," said Yesh Atid MK Karin Elharrar.

"[Ben-Gvir] is setting the neighborhood [Sheikh Jarrah] aflame and he is not actually protecting its residents, he is setting the Middle East on fire," tweeted Yesh Atid MK Yoel Razvozov. 

"By some miracle, the family wasn't home during the weekend," Ben-Gvir tweeted. "Where are you, human rights protectors? Where are the Israel Police and the failing police chief? Why are you waiting until disaster breaks?" 

The tensions in Sheikh Jarrah come amid heightened tensions in the West Bank after the assassination of three al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades terrorists in Nablus last week, as well as threats of an escalation in Israeli prisons due to Palestinian complaints against the Israel Prison Service.

Palestinian prisoner groups have warned that they would escalate measures against the prison service due to alleged violations of agreements reached after the Gilboa Prison escape. The Supreme Leadership Council of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad's prisoners stated on Saturday that the "third intifada" has begun and was sparked from within the prisons. The council added that, for the first time, all the factions' prisoners are united in clashing with Israel.

The council additionally warned against refusing the demands of Palestinian prisoners, saying "wait for the month of Ramadan for the major confrontation."

Tensions surrounding planned evictions of Arab families in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood were one of the reasons Palestinian terrorist groups cited for launching rockets at Jerusalem on Jerusalem Day last year, sparking the nearly two-week-long conflict.

In November, four of the Arab families threatened with eviction rejected a High Court of Justice compromise to solve their property dispute with the Jewish-owned Nahalat Shimon Company.