The Biden administration has asked the Israeli government to take steps to avoid further escalation and restore calm in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood in East Jerusalem, Israeli and U.S. officials tell me.
Why it matters: Tensions over the potential expulsion of six Palestinian families from the neighborhood in favor of Jewish settlers helped spark the fighting in Gaza last May.
- The Biden administration is concerned there could be further violence in Sheikh Jarrah ahead of the holy month of Ramadan.
Driving the news: Last Friday, a fire broke out at the home of Jewish settlers in Sheikh Jarrah. They are the only Jewish family in that part of the neighborhood and their cars had been set on fire several times in the past.
- Israeli police concluded that the fire was set intentionally and arrested two Palestinian suspects, while Palestinian residents of the neighborhood claimed the fire was the result of an electrical malfunction.
- Itamar Ben Gvir, a Jewish supremacist member of the Israeli Knesset, moved his “office” to a tent in Sheikh Jarrah, claiming he would not budge until there was “security” for Jews. The tent is outside the home of a Palestinian family that has lived in Sheikh Jarrah since 1951 but faces expulsion, possibly in March.
- Palestinians called Ben Gvir’s arrival a “provocative move,” and scuffles ensued. Israeli police intervened to separate Palestinians and Jewish settlers who clashed.
- Tensions remain high, and Hamas has threatened to intervene if the “assaults against our compatriots” continue.
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