The Israeli newspaper, Haaretz, reported today that Israeli police and the Shin Bet security service are preparing for the possibility of an escalation of events in the Palestinian territories over the next three months, especially with the approach of Ramadan and the Muslim and Jewish holidays.
According to the newspaper: "The police and the Shin Bet security service view the next three months as having extremely explosive potential for violence between Israeli Arabs and Jews as well as East Jerusalem Palestinians," noting that their predictions are "that if clashes do erupt, they will be limited rather than leading to a broader security escalation. But given how wrong similar predictions proved last May, they are not ruling out the possibility that Hamas will once again join in by launching rockets from the Gaza Strip."
The newspaper mentioned a calendar full of events, starting with Land Day on 30 March, followed by Ramadan at the beginning of April, and the possibility of Israeli occupation forces clamping down hard on Muslim worshippers during prayers in Al-Aqsa Mosque every Friday. The Jewish holiday of Passover falls on 15 April, along with the Priestly Blessing ceremony, meaning more Israelis storming Al-Aqsa Mosque. After these holidays comes Eid Al-Fitr, which coincides with the Israeli Memorial Day for Israeli soldiers.
The newspaper said all of these occasions may lead to the situation exploding given the direct tensions, especially in Jerusalem and Al-Lid and Akka since they are mixed cities. This is especially the case since the Palestinians will commemorate the killing of Arab citizens of Israel last year, and Israel's bombing of Gaza and the start of Operation Guardian of the Walls on 10 May. Then on 15 May is Nakba Day.
The main focus of Israeli forces' deployment, according to the newspaper, will be three main areas, Sheikh Jarrah, Damascus Gate and Al-Aqsa Mosque, noting that protests in Sheikh Jarrah are "dying down" in light of the cessation of evacuating families from there and because activists are not currently reaching the neighbourhood. Moreover, the situation in Al-Aqsa Mosque is maintained, and therefore Damascus Gate remains the greatest source of potential conflict.
The Israeli police's behaviour and the means it confronts Palestinians may, however, push the situation to ignite, the paper warned.