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The History Behind Tensions Between Israelis And Palestinians


We're going to begin this hour in the Middle East, where that conflict is escalating, and we're going to be breaking down what we're seeing there right now. And yes, this is complicated. And no, what you're about to hear is not comprehensive, but it will be useful. This current round of fighting began in Jerusalem.


UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: You are stealing my house.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: And if I don't steal it, someone else is going to steal it.


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER #1: A battle to save Palestinians from eviction triggers the latest rallying call against Israel.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Protests had been going on for weeks there over a plan to evict Palestinians from their homes in a Jerusalem neighborhood called Sheikh Jarrah.


GARCIA-NAVARRO: Both Israel and the Palestinians claim Jerusalem as their capital. Palestinians accuse Israel of trying to expel them home by home in order to cement its control over the city. Israel captured the east of the city in 1967 and annexed it. The Palestinians, though, and most world governments say that the status of Jerusalem should be the subject of negotiations in any peace deal. For its part, Israel says the whole of Jerusalem is its capital and has been building settlements in the area. So tensions were already high when fierce clashes then broke out in early May at one of the most sensitive areas in the city.


GARCIA-NAVARRO: Jerusalem, of course, is important to both sides for many reasons, including that it is the site of a compound sacred to both Jews and Muslims. The Temple Mount, as it's called by Jews, is the holiest site in Judaism because it was the location of two ancient temples that were destroyed. It is also the location of the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock, the third-most sacred site in Islam, and where Muslims believe the Prophet Muhammad ascended into heaven. Last week, Israeli police raided the compound.


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER #2: Police coming in in huge numbers, firing tear gas. We're seeing stun grenades.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Saying that they were chasing violent protesters, injuring hundreds and generating images that shocked Muslims around the world.


GARCIA-NAVARRO: The militant group Hamas, which controls a tiny strip of land in Gaza, then entered the fray.


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER #3: The wail of an air raid siren persuaded Jewish worshippers at the Western Wall to flee and run for cover.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: They started by firing hundreds of rockets into Israel. Hamas is regarded as a terrorist organization by Israel and the United States. It rejects Israel and embraces armed resistance against it. Now, Gaza is completely isolated. It's surrounded and blocked off by both Israel and Egypt, which borders it. And most of its residents cannot leave.


GARCIA-NAVARRO: Israel then retaliated with hundreds of airstrikes on Gaza.


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER #4: As you can hear now, the raids are directly targeting the tower.


GARCIA-NAVARRO: This is so far the deadliest part of the fighting, where almost 200 people have been killed in Gaza, including children. And Israel has seen almost a dozen dead, also including children. But a new flashpoint has also opened up.


UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #3: (Non-English language spoken).

GARCIA-NAVARRO: This is from the town of Lod inside Israel, which has been placed under a state of emergency. Fights between Palestinian citizens of Israel and Jews who live in mixed communities have broken out there and across the country, which is, we should say, highly unusual. Roving mobs have been attacking the other side and destroying property, including places of worship.


GARCIA-NAVARRO: Also, in recent days, there have been pitched battles between Palestinian protesters and Israeli security forces in the West Bank too, which is part of the Palestinian territories occupied by Israel. The many fronts now in this conflict are raising fears of a new intifada - or uprising - similar to what was seen with devastating consequences only two times before. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.