Israeli authorities braced themselves for more violence over the weekend after a spate of shootings and amid mounting tensions over the looming eviction of dozens of Palestinians from their homes in east Jerusalem.
Israeli forces shot two Palestinians and seriously wounded a third after opening fire with makeshift submachine guns on a base in the occupied West Bank on Friday morning, Israeli police said. No Israelis were injured.
That happened two days after the 19-year-old Israeli student Yehuda Guetta died in a hospital as a result of a drive-by shooting on Sunday while standing at a bus stop near the city of Nablus in the West Bank. Two other teenagers were injured in the attack. Israeli forces arrested a Palestinian in connection with the attack on Thursday.
Meanwhile, Saeed Yusuf Muhammad Oudeh, a 16-year-old Palestinian boy, was killed in a village near Nablus on Wednesday.
Israel’s military said troops opened fire when they were hit with fire bombs, but Defense for Children International – Palestine, a rights group, said Saeed was not involved in the confrontation. The teenager was shot twice in the back, it said.
Tensions are high in the neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah in East Jerusalem over a longstanding legal battle in which four Palestinian families live on land claimed by Jewish settlers, which is due to be tried in the Israeli Supreme Court on Monday.
Palestinian families have lived in the area for decades, but settler groups claim that the land on which the houses were built originally belonged to Jewish organizations before 1948, when the fighting divided divided Jerusalem into east and west.
Israel conquered East Jerusalem along with the West Bank and Gaza Strip – territories the Palestinians want for their future state – in the Arab-Israeli war of 1967. Israel annexed East Jerusalem in an internationally unrecognized move and regards the entire city as its capital.
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But the Palestinians consider East Jerusalem – which includes important holy sites for Jews, Christians and Muslims – as their capital, and its fate is one of the most sensitive issues of the conflict.
A law passed by the Israeli Parliament in 1970 allows the recovery of property that previously belonged to Jewish people in East Jerusalem, although Palestinians have no such right to reclaim property in West Jerusalem.
The four Palestinian families in Sheikh Jarrah face an imminent eviction under this law and several mediation attempts have failed. The Israeli Supreme Court will hold a hearing on Monday and may issue a final eviction order that could set a precedent for other families.
Yacoub Abu Arafa, 59, said he was born in the home he could leave and his family fought in court for nearly half a century to hold onto their home.
“We were getting old and tired,” he told NBC News. “I don’t know what will happen to us when they throw the families out of their homes.”
Palestinians protesting the case have clashed with Israeli police in the city every night since the beginning of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
Activists say the Sheikh Jarrah litigation is part of a systematic effort by settler groups to change the demographics of East Jerusalem by displacing Palestinians and bringing Israelis to the region.
Rupert Colville, a spokesman for the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, said Friday that the evictions “, if ordered and carried out, would violate Israel’s international legal obligations.”
“We urge Israel to immediately cease all evictions, including those in Sheikh Jarrah, and to stop any activity that would further contribute to a coercive environment and create a risk of forced relocation,” he said.
Protesters have also argued with Israeli police over restrictions on outdoor gatherings at Damascus Gate, which leads into the Old City.
Sunday night is “Laylat al-Qadr” or “Night of Fate”, the holiest of the month of Ramadan, and worshipers will gather for intense night prayers in the grounds of Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem’s Old City, a sacred focus for both Muslims and Muslims also to Jews who call it the Temple Mount.
Jerusalem Day, a national holiday that celebrates Israel’s annexation of East Jerusalem and religious nationalists hold parades and other festivals in the city, also begins on Sunday evening.
The two events coincided over the past few years and sometimes led to clashes.
The ruling Hamas in the Gaza Strip, viewed by the US and the European Union as a terrorist organization, has embraced violence in recent days, and Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip have fired rockets in support of the demonstrators.
Earlier this week, Hamas’ armed wing commander Mohammed Deif issued his first public statement in seven years warning Israel that it would pay a “high price” for evicting Palestinians from their homes.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.