Israel razes historical Palestinian cemetery in Jerusalem
Tensions rose again in occupied Jerusalem after Israeli authorities bulldozed a historical cemetery just outside the old city late on Sunday.
The Yousefiyah Cemetery - a historic graveyard, possibly dating back to the 12th century - is located by old Jerusalem's historical walls. It was undergoing works by the Israeli Jerusalem municipality and the Israeli Nature Authority, when bulldozers ran over old tombs, unearthing corpses.
Palestinians gathered at the spot after the first bodies appeared, attempting to stop the bulldozers by holding protests and prayers at the location, sources told The New Arab.
Israeli police then closed off the area and forced Palestinians out.
The Yousefiyah cemetery has been a key target of Israeli settlement efforts in recent years.
The Israeli Nature Authority included the cemetery in a larger plan for a Toratic theme park.
In 2014, Israeli authorities banned Palestinians from using the northern part of the graveyard, removing some 20 graves of Jordanian soldiers killed in the 1967 war.
In December 2020, an Israeli court issued an order to suspend all municipality works in the cemetery.
Advocate Hamza Qatina, acting on behalf of the Palestinian local graveyard's committee before the Israeli court, told The New Arab that "the Israeli municipality and Nature Authority have lied to the court in order to get its authorisation to resume bulldozing. They claimed that there was no graveyard in the area and that their works were only superficial. Now the bones came out and spoke for themselves."
Qatina added: "We have been warning for ten months that work will be resumed and that the graves will be profaned. We will go back to the court, not because we trust the Israeli court system, but because it's the only way at hand to push back and halt these crimes against the dead."
'Attempt to erase the past'
Jerusalemite journalist, Ayman Qawariq, explained to The New Arab that the Yousefiyah Cemetery has been a target of the Israeli municipality for many years.
"The municipality's aim is to erase any trace of Arab and Islamic past in the city," he said
"Tensions in the city had calmed down since last May, following the postponement of Palestinian families' evictions at Sheikh Jarrah. But they have been rising again in the past weeks, especially after the Israeli court’s decision, to allow Jewish settlers to silently pray at Al-Aqsa compound."
On Wednesday, an Israeli court issued a decision to allow Israeli settlers to perform silent prayers at Al-Aqsa Mosque's surroundings, proving angry demonstrations by Palestinians, as well as international criticism. The decision was revoked by the Israeli court in Jerusalem on Friday.
Israeli settlers have repeatedly stormed Al-Aqsa Mosque and its surroundings in the past weeks. At least one Palestinian was killed by Israeli police at the doorsteps of the compound.
"In fact, the Israeli police conduct searches and arrests of Palestinian youth in the Old City and at the Damascus Gate on a daily basis," confirmed Qawariq.
East Jerusalem was occupied by Israel in the 1967 Arab-Israeli war. Israel then annexed East Jerusalem in 1981. It remains, under international law, occupied territory.