Reports of clashes between Jewish youths and Armenian youths in the Old City of Jerusalem over the weekend added a new and troubling dimension to the escalating violence in Israel.
The Armenian Report, an English-language news service, reported that on Saturday night, two young Jewish Israeli men obstructed traffic in front of the Armenian Patriarchate before hitting the car of young Armenians with their hands. One of the young Jews pepper-sprayed an Armenian youth. Crowds gathered and a shouting match ensued and IDF Border Police intervened.
The Armenian youths went to the hospital and upon returning, filed a complaint with the police. The police questioned the two Jewish Israelis and arrested them. One of them was released at dawn, but the one who fired the tear gas is still under arrest.
An hour after this incident, another group of Jewish Israelis entered the street in front of the Armenian Patriarchate and tried to climb the roof and remove the flags of the Patriarchate and the Republic of Armenia. A group of young Armenians intervened.
The Jewish Israelis fled and shouted, “Terrorist attack.” Police in the area heard these shouts and restrained the Armenian youths. An Armenian youth was kept in police custody overnight on charges of attacking a police officer. He was tried and sentenced to 20 days of house arrest.
A similar incident took place on Thursday when a street brawl broke out in front of the Taboon restaurant in the Armenian quarter. The young Israelis reportedly cursed Mohammed and shouted ‘Death to Arabs’ near the Damascus Gate. No arrests were made.
Armenia’s Foreign Ministry on Monday voiced its “concern” over the weekend attacks targeting Armenians in Jerusalem.
“We are deeply concerned by recent acts of violence and vandalism targeting Christian religious institutions in Jerusalem including the Armenian Patriarchate and the Armenian residents of the Old City,” foreign ministry spokesperson Vahan Hunanyan said in a Twitter post.These recent events come in the wake of reports of violence targeting Armenian Christians in Jerusalem. The Patriarchate said on January 11 that vandals left anti-Armenian and anti-Christian graffiti on the walls of a local Armenian church. One week before that, more than 30 graves at the Protestant Cemetery on Mount Zion were desecrated.