JERUSALEM — Protesters used hammers and pickaxes to smash holes in the wall that divides Israel and the Palestinian territories on Sunday.
The destruction was largely symbolic, but it pointed to the growing frustration among Palestinians over what they see as an increasingly oppressive occupation.
Israel is currently building a network of roads and walls that not only bypass and isolate Palestinian cities in the West Bank, but also completely hide them from view from inside Israel.
Hundreds of people attended the protest, which was originally organized in defense of the Al-Aqsa Mosque. Violence has spiked in recent weeks over fears that the Israeli government is seeking to gain more control over the Jerusalem mosque, which is Islam’s third holiest site.
Social media users captured the moment on video. The demonstration was eventually dispersed by tear gas:
According to a Times of Israel reporter who was at the scene, female students, who can be seen in the video standing a few meters back, sang nationalist and religious songs while male students went to work bashing the wall with tools.
Government construction on the wall began in 2004. It cuts off the Palestinian town of Abu Dis from greater Jerusalem, and makes it difficult for residents there to access services if they don’t have a permit to cross.
In an advisory opinion delivered during the wall's construction, the International Court of Justice described it as illegal.
"By a majority of 14 to 1, the judges found that the barrier's construction breaches international law," said a UN statement at the time.
On the twelfth day of violence between Israel and the Palestinian territories, a Palestinian citizen of Israel stabbed four people near a bus stop in northern Israel. There has been a string of stabbings of Jewish Israelis by Palestinians this month.
In one incident a Jewish man stabbed three Palestinians and a West Bank Bedouin in the southern city of Dimona. So far, four Israelis and 24 Palestinians, eight of them children, have been killed. More than 25 Israelis and over 500 Palestinians have been injured.
Several times a day there are reports of Israeli security forces using excessive force against Palestinians, many of them demonstrators. The Israeli cabinet approved a new law on Monday assigning minimum four-year jail terms for stone-throwers.
"We are doing this as a temporary emergency measure so that we can examine the implementation, and if there will be a need, we will make the law even harsher," Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement.