March 22, 2023 | Flash Brief

Israel Braces for Violence During Ramadan

March 22, 2023 | Flash Brief

Israel Braces for Violence During Ramadan

Latest Developments 

Israeli police plan to deploy thousands of additional officers in Jerusalem ahead of Ramadan in anticipation of recurrent violence on the Temple Mount. Police forces will bulk up primarily around the Old City, especially on Fridays, when Israel allows tens of thousands of Muslims from the West Bank to pray at the al-Aqsa Mosque.

Intended to be a time of prayer and peace, Ramadan, which begins at sundown on Wednesday, is the month during which Muslims believe Allah revealed the Quran to the Prophet Muhammad. Two years ago, clashes during Ramadan escalated into an 11-day war between Israel and Palestinian terror groups, mainly in Gaza.

Expert Analysis

“The holy month of Ramadan, a perennial time of heightened violence in Israel, comes amid a bloody year of Palestinian terrorism. The numerous terrorist attacks Israel has suffered, and the many more it has thwarted, raise serious concerns of escalation during Ramadan. Israel will have to balance its role of ensuring freedom of worship at holy sites in Jerusalem with its responsibility to protect Israeli civilians. This, unfortunately, might necessitate restrictions during Ramadan.” David May, FDD Research Manager and Senior Research Analyst

Palestinian Terrorism on the Rise

Attacks from Palestinian terrorists have steadily increased since last spring, especially in areas where the Palestinian Authority has lost control, such as Jenin. On Sunday, a Palestinian terrorist shot and badly wounded a U.S.-Israeli dual citizen who was driving through the northern West Bank town of Huwara, the same town where two Israeli brothers were shot and killed in another incident just weeks earlier. On February 27, another dual U.S.-Israeli motorist was killed in a drive-by shooting on a highway near Jericho.

In previous years, Biden administration officials have also expressed concern over the potential for violent escalation during Ramadan, with senior U.S. officials visiting the region in the last few months to encourage calm.

Israel-Gaza Conflict of 2021 Preceded by Violence 

The lead-up to the 11-day war between Israel and Hamas in 2021 built on tensions related to Ramadan. The war began after Israeli police, amidst security concerns, closed the plaza outside the Old City of Jerusalem at the beginning of Ramadan. Nightly clashes erupted in the city, which is holy to Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Tempers flared further over the possible eviction of Arab families from homes in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah. (The eviction never occurred.) Soon, Hamas began firing rockets out of Gaza. In the final days of Ramadan, the violence spiraled into all-out war.

Sharm el-Sheikh Agreements

At the urging of Egypt, the United States, and Jordan, Palestinian and Israeli officials met in the Egyptian city of Sharm el-Sheikh to work towards reducing violence ahead of the holiday. Both sides resolved to establish a mechanism to reduce violence, incitement, and inflammatory statements.

Further Analysis

Pray for Peace This Ramadan,” by Jonathan Schanzer and Natalie Ecanow

Israel and Palestinians Make Peace Commitments in Sharm el-Sheikh,” FDD Flash Brief

Mapping Terrorism in the West Bank,” by Joe Truzman


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