Monday’s stabbing attack in Jerusalem shows that the situation in the city remains tense despite the ceasefire between Israel and Hamas, which went into effect four days ago. That’s because the Palestinian Authority and Hamas have an interest in keeping Jerusalem in the headlines – each for its own reasons.
The tensions, which began on the first day of Ramadan, are unlikely to abate quickly in the aftermath of the ceasefire.
The ceasefire does not mean that the “battle for Jerusalem” has ended, PA and Hamas leaders said over the past few days.
They have even urged the Palestinians in the city to continue the “popular uprising” until Israel rescinds the court decision to evict a number of families from the east Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah and stops its “provocations” against al-Aqsa Mosque.
The “provocations” refer mainly to visits by Jews to the Temple Mount compound.
When the visits resumed on Sunday after a three-week lull due to the clashes between Palestinians and the Israel Police, Palestinian leaders and factions in the West Bank and Gaza Strip stepped up their condemnations of Israel.
As in the past, the leaders and factions portrayed the visits as “violent incursions by Jewish settlers and extremists” into the Aqsa Mosque.
The renewed visits refuted rumors that Israel had agreed to halt such visits by Jews to the Temple Mount as part of the ceasefire deal with Hamas.
Palestinian media and many Palestinian social-media platforms continue to report about the Jewish visits to the Temple Mount as a “violation” of the ceasefire agreement. Some Palestinians interpreted the Israeli government’s decision to allow Jews back on the Temple Mount as being part of a “face-saving” action in the wake of Israel’s “defeat” in the last round of fighting.
Since the ceasefire, Palestinians in Jerusalem have been demonstrating on a daily basis in a number of neighborhoods and at the Temple Mount compound. Some of the protesters said they were celebrating the Hamas “victory,” while others said they were continuing their protests against Israel’s overall policies toward the Palestinians in Jerusalem.
Over the past few days, Jerusalem police have arrested dozens of Palestinians from east Jerusalem who were involved in the recent wave of violence, including attacks on police officers and Jewish civilians. The crackdown has intensified an already tense situation in the city.
Now that the situation in the Gaza Strip is quiet, the PA and Hamas leaders are seeking to shift the focus back to Jerusalem, which triggered the 11-day battle between Israel and the Gaza-based terrorist groups. They are hoping that the ongoing tensions in Jerusalem will compel the US administration to exert pressure on Israel to make far-reaching concessions to the Palestinians.
PA President Mahmoud Abbas wants to be part of any international effort to rebuild the Gaza Strip. But he also wants to deny Hamas the chance of presenting itself as the “defender” of Jerusalem.
Abbas is expected to escalate his criticism of Israel over Jerusalem to divert attention from his controversial decision to delay the Palestinian general elections. As far as Abbas is concerned, everyone should only be talking about Sheikh Jarrah and al-Aqsa Mosque.
Similarly, Hamas is expected to step up its calls for an uprising in Jerusalem and more violence as a way of distracting attention from its failure to score real achievements during the fighting with Israel.
Hamas is also hoping that shifting the focus to Jerusalem will divert attention from the massive damage and heavy casualties it suffered during the fighting.