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Holy Land spirals into violence amid celebrations of Passover, Easter and Ramadan

Israeli medics and police officers check a damaged car at the scene of a shooting attack, in the Jordan Valley in the Israeli-occupied West Bank April 7, 2023. A British-Israeli mother and her two daughters were killed in a drive-by-shooting terrorist attack. (OSV News photo/Gil Eliyahu, Reuters)

JERUSALEM (OSV News) — A British-Israeli mother and her two daughters were killed in a drive-by-shooting terrorist attack in the Jordan valley on April 7, during a week that, instead of seeing the holidays of Passover, Easter and Ramadan celebrated in parallel peacefully, spiraled the region into violence.

Rina Dee, 15, and Maia Dee, 20, died at the scene of the attack while their mother Lucy, 48, died from her wounds on April 10.

Following the Jordan valley attack, an Italian tourist identified as Alessandro Parini, 36, in Israel for the Easter holiday, was killed in what Israeli police have said was a car-ramming terrorist attack on a beach promenade in Tel Aviv, which left one other Italian and three British nationals among the injured.

The attacks were spurred on by an Israeli police raid into the Al Aqsa Mosque compound in the early morning of April 5. A group of Palestinians had barricaded themselves inside the mosque with fireworks and rocks in reaction to a call by a fringe Jewish group to carry out the biblical sacrificial commandment at the compound. The site is also sacred to Jews as the location where the two biblical temples stood in Jerusalem.

Police say they feared the stocked ammunition would be used to attack Jews coming to pray at the Western Wall, which is adjacent and under the raised compound, known as the Temple Mount by Jews and as Haram al-Sharif by Muslims.

The raid was especially violent and videos show police standing over Palestinians, fiercely beating them with batons and rifles.

Dozens of missiles were fired into Israel from both southern Lebanon and the Gaza Strip in reaction to the raid, and Israel responded in kind.

According to a status quo at the holy site, Jews are permitted to visit during certain times but are not allowed to pray there. During the holiday week, groups of religious Jews have been brought up to visit the site. Jewish extremists have previously attempted to carry out prayers on the site, although some ultra-Orthodox rabbis forbid Jews from going onto the Temple Mount at all.

The Israeli Haaretz newspaper reported that police were considering limiting the number of Jewish visits to the site during the last nine days of the Ramadan holiday, as it has done in the past.

Israeli police also issued a statement saying they had completed their “extensive … work” in preparation for the Orthodox Holy Fire ceremony on April 15, following coordination meetings with heads of churches. The fire hazard security regulations imposed by Israeli police on the ceremony, and the way in which it is enforced, is always a point of contention.

It imposes restrictions on the number of faithful who can attend the ceremony, which sees the holy fire brought forth from the traditional tomb of Jesus inside Jerusalem’s Church of the Holy Sepulcher.

Israel extended a closure on the West Bank and Gaza until the evening of April 12, and suspended special entry permits for Palestinians from Gaza for Ramadan prayers. According to an April 11 Facebook post by the Saint Porphyrios Orthodox Church in Gaza, Israeli travel permits given to Gaza Christians for the Easter holiday were also canceled. It is unclear if Gaza Christians who have already traveled to Jerusalem were required to return to Gaza.

Judith Sudilovsky writes for OSV News from Jerusalem.

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