JERUSALEM (AP) — Israeli police clashed overnight Sunday with residents of a Palestinian neighborhood in east Jerusalem, leaving at least 15 Palestinians and two officers wounded, officials said. It was the third consecutive night of…
JERUSALEM (AP) — Israeli police clashed overnight Sunday with residents of a Palestinian neighborhood in east Jerusalem, leaving at least 15 Palestinians and two officers wounded, officials said.
It was the third consecutive night of violence in the Issawiya neighborhood and came hours ahead of the opening of a new Israeli archaeological project in a neighborhood elsewhere in east Jerusalem. U.S. Ambassador David Friedman and White House Mideast envoy Jason Greenblatt were expected at the ceremony.
“The Israeli occupation is trying to legalize colonial practices in Jerusalem by using a religious cover,” said the Palestinian Foreign Ministry. “Friedman and Greenblatt are ready to fake history for this colonial purpose.”
Israel captured east Jerusalem, home to the city’s most sensitive holy sites, in the 1967 Mideast war and annexed it in a move that is not internationally recognized. The Palestinians seek east Jerusalem as their capital.
The competing claims to east Jerusalem lie at the heart of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and are a frequent flashpoint of violence. Palestinian neighborhoods in east Jerusalem also suffer from poverty and neglect, adding to the tensions.
The clashes in Issawiya erupted last Thursday following the shooting death of a Palestinian man by Israeli police.
Residents say police have stepped up their presence in Issawiya for several weeks and that they were demonstrating against police violence when 20-year-old Mohammed Obeid was shot.
Police say he hurled fireworks at officers and presented a lethal threat. But residents accuse police of using excessive force and shooting Obeid from close range.
Mohammed Abu Homus, a community leader, said the family was demanding an autopsy. The family has also asked a court to order the release of Obeid’s body. Israeli authorities sometimes hold bodies of Palestinians, fearing the funerals will turn violent.
Israeli police reported clashes in several Palestinian neighborhoods overnight. They said that protesters threw stones and fireworks at police. They said two officers were lightly hurt and six protesters were arrested.
The Palestinian Red Crescent medical service said 15 people were hurt by rubber bullets, which are used by police to disperse crowds.
Later Sunday, Israeli authorities were set to open a new tunnel at the City of David, a group of popular archaeological and tourist sites in the east Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan. The sites are located on what many believe to be the ruins of the biblical King David’s ancient capital and seen as centerpieces of ancient Jewish civilization.
But critics accuse operators of the sites of pushing a nationalistic agenda at the expense of Palestinian residents. The project’s parent group, Elad, helps settle Jewish families in Arab neighborhoods, raising suspicions that its tourism projects have the deeper agenda of erasing the lines between east and west Jerusalem.
The presence of U.S. Ambassador David Friedman and White House Mideast envoy Jason Greenblatt were likely to deepen suspicions that the U.S. supports “Judaizing” east Jerusalem.
“We are in a time that Israel feels very, very free to advance its strategic aims in east Jerusalem,” said Aviv Tatarsky, a researcher at Ir Amim, an advocacy group that pushes for equality between Palestinian and Jewish residents of the city.
The Palestinians have boycotted the White House since President Donald Trump recognized contested Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in December 2017. Although Trump said his recognition had no bearing on the city’s final boundaries, the participation of two White House officials at an Israeli ceremony in the heart of east Jerusalem has deep political implications.
In a statement on Twitter, Greenblatt called the criticism “ludicrous.”
“We can’t ‘Judaize’ what history/archeology show,” he wrote. “We can acknowledge it & you can stop pretending it isn’t true! Peace can only be built on truth.
Associated Press reporter Shahar Golan contributed.
Copyright © 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, written or redistributed.