Palestinians in Lydd fear Israel’s war and threat of expulsion from their homes

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Lydd, Israel – A week after Israel began bombing Gaza last October, Ghassan Mounayer received a phone call from the Israeli police. An officer warned him not to post any critical content on Facebook or call for demonstrations in Lydd, a city where Palestinian and Jewish Israelis coexist.

Tensions have been rising in Lydd since the conflict began, with Mayor Yair Revivo leading the city in a right-wing direction. Palestinian activists in the city fear for their safety, as they live under the watchful eye of Israeli authorities and armed Jewish citizens, some belonging to supremacist groups. They worry that the city could erupt into conflict, leading to the persecution or even expulsion of Palestinian residents.

Palestinians in Lydd, who make up around 27 percent of the population, have deep roots in the city that predate the Nakba. Many are descendants of Palestinians who fled from nearby villages during the Nakba in 1948. The city holds a complex history with roots that connect families split between Lydd and Gaza.

Maha al-Nakeeb, a human rights lawyer in Lydd, has lost 16 relatives in Israel’s bombing campaign in Gaza. Despite the trauma, she refrains from speaking out on social media, fearing arrest. Since the conflict began, over 100 Palestinian citizens of Israel have been arrested for expressing their views online.

Mounayer noted that Israel has a history of discouraging solidarity between Palestinians living in Israel and those in the occupied territories. He added that Palestinians in Lydd are holding back their anger over reports of Israeli atrocities in Gaza.

In the city, Israeli extremists seek to increase their numbers and erase Palestinian presence, settling in Palestinian neighborhoods and exploiting discriminatory policies. Disputes often result in violence, with security forces and Mayor Revivo favoring Jewish Israelis.

A committee of moderate Jewish Israelis and Palestinians has formed to ease tensions and prevent conflict in the city. However, with the approaching month of Ramadan and potential crackdowns on worshippers at Al-Aqsa Mosque, violence could escalate in Lydd.

Shehada, a Palestinian activist in Lydd and member of the committee, emphasized the need for caution, as the city teeters on the brink of further violence. She fears that Israeli extremists aim to drive Palestinians out of the city.

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