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Tuesday, April 27, 2021

April 27, 2021

The situation of the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians is getting significantly worse. In recent days, bombings from both sides have been reported, as well as protests and shootings. This is the worst crisis in months and occurs exactly during Ramadan, the holy month for Muslims, which makes the time even more delicate for the Palestinian population, whose routine is divided between prayers, intense fasts, and violent confrontations.

Last Saturday, a new wave of rockets hit Israel supposedly from Gaza, according to data from the Israeli Defense Forces. The episode follows the strong attack on Friday night, when 36 rockets hit Israeli territory. Palestinian rockets hit mainly agricultural fields and rural production areas. There were no fatalities, but many Jewish families took refuge in underground shelters due to the alerts signaling bombings. Western media is reporting the events emphasizing Palestinian violence and Hamas' firepower, but the reason for the protests is being ignored.

In fact, a number of common crimes committed by Israelis against Palestinians have contributed to the tensions. In addition to all the routine harassment perpetrated by Israeli forces against the Palestinian population, some factors have contributed to the significant deterioration in relations in recent days. Israel continues to prevent the Palestinian population from being immunized against the new coronavirus, blocking Palestinians' access to the vaccine that is widely distributed to the Israeli population.

However, the main reason for the trigger of the crisis is, undoubtedly, the major religious persecution against Islam. Last week, Israeli police, with the support of far-right Zionist militants, prevented the Palestinian population from sitting on the steps around the Damascus Gate, a place where Palestinians usually gather at night during Ramadan. The attitude was considered a real offense to Palestinian traditions and sparked a series of violent protests, with young Palestinians confronting the police with homemade bombs and stones.

On Friday, more than 100 people were injured during the demonstrations in Jerusalem. Hamas responded to the violence against the population by launching rockets. Immediately after the rockets were launched, a Hamas spokesman said the maneuver was due to the crisis in Jerusalem, highlighting the religious aspect and the need to protect the Al Aqsa Mosque, which is close to the Damascus Gate, where there was the blockade by the Israeli police. Israel retaliated by targeting Hamas bases. And, finally, the crisis was generated.

In addition to the crisis involving night vigils at the Gate, since the beginning of Ramadan, on April 12, there have been clashes between Israelis and Palestinians, with the Zionist police trying to prevent public meetings, open-air prayers, and the circulation of people in the sacred places. The widespread crisis is generating open religious confrontation, with protests and violence between Jews and Muslims in cities other than Jerusalem, such as Tel Aviv and Jaffa. More than 700 people have already been injured during the protests.

There have also been many arrests and it is possible that there have been some deaths, although the figures have not yet been reported. Jewish far-right organizations are directly involved in the demonstrations, perpetrating gratuitous violence against the Arab population, and calling on the government for revenge. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu responded to extremists by welcoming their request and made public statements saying that Hamas’s militants "have to pay a heavy price" for their actions.

Netanyahu also issued an alert for the armed forces to prepare for any possible scenario. Israeli Defense Forces chief of staff Aviv Kochavi said on Sunday that the Israeli military was busy "working on restoring peace and stability in the southern communes. But we are fully ready for a possible escalation and a broader campaign and are making preparations".

In addition, Israel responded to the destruction of some of its agricultural fields by imposing fishing restrictions on Palestine. Jewish authorities have blocked the Gaza Strip sea, reducing the permitted fishing zone from 15 to 9 miles from this Monday. As a justification for the measure, the authorities have precisely reported the attacks by Hamas, which indicates that, until the situation is resolved, the Palestinians will have a reduced fishing zone, which could mean a food crisis in the region.

Indeed, while Hamas' attacks on production areas are reprehensible, it must be understood that such attacks had no victims and have served as a response to violent incidents against Palestinians. Israel's response is asymmetric. The Zionist state has a much stronger economy, with a more powerful food supply structure and is prepared for a situation like this, which is not the case with the Palestinians, who have a weak institutional structure and a precarious economic and productive system, mostly relying on exploration of the sea as a source of food. Blocking access to fish can pose a serious threat to Palestinian food security, which is indeed a violation of humanitarian law standards.

The crisis is complex. Israel persecutes Palestinians ethnically and religiously, preventing immunization and blocking access to sacred sites. Hamas responded in a violent and reprehensible way. However, preventing fishing will lead to more hunger and poverty in the region, which is condemnable by international standards, demanding sanctions within the scope of the United Nations. There is no reason to believe that the crisis will quickly diminish. With the rise of the far right in Israel and government collaboration with extremism, violence against Palestinians is likely to increase - and the more Palestinians suffer, the more there will be responses from Hamas.

By Leiroz, research fellow in international law at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro.

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