Jerusalem24 – It’s the start of a new year and while last night we saw a small round of fighting between Israel and Hamas, no causalities were reported. 2021 was action-packed with different events and here’s a recap on some of the bigger events of last year.
At the beginning of the year the Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas declared that 2021 will be the year of Palestinian General Elections. Hundreds of young Palestinians had never participated in an election before as the last time people voted for the Legislative Council was 2006, and the last presidential elections placed Abbas in power back in 2004.
It was a generally exciting time as hundreds of Palestinians ran for the legislative council, overshadowing the Palestinian factions as most of the individuals present were independent of them.
In addition to that, the Israeli watchdog NGO B’Tselem published a report calling Israel’s regime an apartheid. The report titled “A regime of Jewish supremacy from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea: This is apartheid” presented various different aspects of Israeli law as well as statistics to make the claim that Israel practices apartheid against the Palestinians. The report was then later echoed by Human Rights Watch.
While the COVID19 Pandemic is still ongoing, humanity has been making strides in fighting the disease. While Israel made headlines in its vaccination campaign, it refused to provide vaccines to the Palestinians unless they deal with Israelis directly. A policy that was criticized the world over. Israel claimed that they are simply adhering to Oslo, while simultaneously expanding settlement activities.
Despite that, the COVID19 Vaccines Global Access, abbreviated as COVAX provided the Palestinians and other peoples vaccines. As of now, more than a million and a half Palestinians are vaccinated with both doses of the vaccine.
In occupied Jerusalem, dozens of Palestinian families who have lived in the neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah have been facing the threat of displacement for years. In 2021, Israeli settlers have been stepping up their activities in the attempted take over of their homes.
In April, a small movement led by Mohammad and Muna El-Kurd began gathering in the neighborhood to protect their homes and in protest of the displacement that Israel calls a “real estate dispute.” Regardless the story of Sheikh Jarrah is not over, as the the Israeli Supreme Court presented a compromise where the families recognize the settlers ownership of the homes built in 1956 in return for becoming “protected tenants.” The families refused the compromise and the story is still ongoing.
Meanwhile, tensions were rising in the old city of Jerusalem. The Israeli security and military decided that Palestinians should not be allowed to gather at Damascus Gate, one of the entrances to the old city and the Palestinians of Jerusalem’s last public sphere.
Around the same time, Israeli settlers marched into East Jerusalem towards Damascus Gateand were met with resistance by the locals. The clash between the settlers and the Palestinians turned into protests against the Israeli police and military in the occupied city.
As footage of Israeli forces firing tear gas inside the Al-Aqsa Mosque buildings and arresting worshippers began to find its way on Social Media, tensions only rose. Then the fourth war between Hamas and Israel since 2007 sparked after weeks of protests. This ignited protests all over the West Bank, Jerusalem and Israel as Palestinians hit the streets.
In the city of Lydd, 24-year-old Musa Hassouneh was killed by a group of settlers who shot him. The settlers were arrested and released days later.
As the battle between Hamas and Israel raged on, with Israel bombing Gaza and Hamas launching rockets at Israel. 260 Palestinians were killed in the bombing and around 2000 people were injured, while 13 Israelis were killed. Israel also bombed the Al-Jalaa’ tower which housed the Gaza office of the Associated Press and other organizations.
On May 20th, a truce was declared between Hamas and Israel. Israel, lost a lot of publicity after footage of the suppression of protests and the bombing of Gaza found its way onto social media and covered by various media organizations.
Shortly after the fighting died down, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas cancelled the general elections. The reasons for the cancellation were numerous. The two main reasons was Hamas’ rising popularity after the recent confrontation with Israel and the decline in popular support for the Palestinian Authority being one reason. Another reason was Fatah’s internal divisions taking a toll on the movement, as several splinter factions were running for the Legislative Council.
In the end, Abbas claimed he cancelled the elections since Israel did not provide a guarantee to allow the elections in Jerusalem for the Palestinians there; who are not allowed to participate in Israeli elections either.
Tensions were still high in the occupied West Bank. Protests were still taking place.
Near the end of May, around 50 families of Israeli settlers took over 35 dunums of Palestinian lands near the town of Beita, South of Nablus. The townspeople began a campaign of protests against the settlers’ take over. In the ensuing protests scores of Palestinians were injured, and since the truce between Israel and Hamas, Israeli forces killed over 70 Palestinians.
Eventually, the settlers were made to leave in a deal brokered between them and the Israeli government with no say for the owners of the land back in July. The deal would have Israel survey the lands, which could mean the settlers might return; especially since they kept a yeshiva or religious school standing there. However, the people of Beita vowed to keep protesting until the Israeli army leaves the outpost.
Speaking of July, the beginning of the seventh month of the year saw the killing of Palestinian activist Nizar Banat at the hands of the Preventive Security of the Palestinian National Authority. Banat was an outspoken critic of the Palestinian Authority, he was also running for parliament in the Legislative Council Elections that were cancelled by the PA.
Waves of demonstrations hit the streets protesting the killing of Banat, the Palestinian Authority and more specifically against the Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas. His approval rating dropped dramatically with 80% of the Palestinians wanting him to resign.
Palestinian Security Forces cracked down on the protesters, with footage of physical assault caught on camera, allegations of sexual assault in addition to the attack on Palestinian journalists and the arrest of some as well.
The protests eventually slowed down as the security officers suspected of the murder arrested and are now on trial.
Come November, news broke out on the great escape of the Gilboa-6. Six Palestinian prisoners spent 9 months digging a tunnel and managed to break out of the high security facility of Gilboa Prison that the Israeli security apparatus called “the vault.” While they were arrested a while after that, their escape filled the minds of the Palestinians.
Meanwhile, Israeli settler attacks increased in the final months of the year during the annual olive harvest. With attacks being documented in the northern West Bank near Nablus and the Southern Hebron Hills. Israeli settlers attacked Palestinian farmers and homes, and Palestinians who protested settlement expansion or attacks were suppressed by the Israeli military.
Meanwhile, the Israelis who killed Musa Hassouneh earlier this year had all charges dropped against them. The Israeli Prosecutor stated that the killing took place under self-defense. The five men who killed Hassouneh were detained for five days in May and then released without being interrogated. During the same week, Israeli police in Jerusalem killed Mohammad Salima in Jerusalem. Salima was immobilized by the Israeli forces after stabbing a settler and then shot several times while he was on the ground.
Near the end of the year, a group of Palestinian gunmen opened fire and killed on settler and wounded two others near the evacuated Israeli settlement of Homesh.
The settlers whom have mostly remained quiet regarding anti-Palestinian violence were surprised by the sudden attack and have been attacking the Palestinian town of Burqa with the protection of the Israeli military on a nightly basis.
Which brings us to yesterday where the Palestinian National Security Force under direct orders of the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas headed to Burqa and installed wiring and fencing on the homes that were attacked….