Israel’s national police chief said on Saturday he was reinforcing forces in Jerusalem ahead of the unrest expected in the coming days following a night of heavy clashes between Palestinians and Israeli police in the holy city.
Palestinian doctors said more than 200 Palestinians were injured in Friday night’s clashes inside the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound and elsewhere in Jerusalem. The violence drew condemnation from Israel’s Arab allies and calls for calm from the United States and Europe.
Israel has faced the most violent unrest in Jerusalem for several years, with near-night clashes between police and Palestinian protesters throughout the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
An injured Israeli policeman is helped in clashes with Palestinian protesters in East Jerusalem on Friday, May 7, 2021. Palestinians protested after Israel’s threat of deportation of dozens of Palestinians in Jerusalem’s Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood -Is, who have been involved in a long legal battle with Israeli settlers who are trying to acquire property in the neighborhood. (AP Photo / Mahmoud Illean)
PALESTINIANS, ASSIGNMENT OF THE ISRAEL POLICE TO THE AL-AQSA MOSQUE; DOZENS OF INJURIES
The protests erupted at the start of Ramadan three weeks ago when Israel restricted gatherings at a popular meeting place outside of Jerusalem’s Old City. Israel lifted the restrictions, briefly calming the situation, but protests have revived in recent days over the threat of eviction of dozens of Palestinians from their homes in East Jerusalem, which is claimed by both sides in their long-standing conflict. several decades.
Other recent developments, including the cancellation of the Palestinian elections, the deadly violence in which a Palestinian teenager, two armed Palestinians and a young Israeli were killed in separate incidents in the West Bank, and the election to the Israeli parliament of a far-right Jewish nationalist party, contributed to the unrest.
It is unclear what sparked the violence in Al-Aqsa, which erupted when Israeli police in riot gear deployed in large numbers as thousands of Muslim worshipers held evening prayers on the plaza. sprawling from the top of a hill.
Throughout the night, large groups of protesters could be seen throwing stones as police fired rubber bullets and stun grenades. At one point, police entered one of the buildings in the complex, which includes the mosque and the iconic Golden Dome of the Rock.
The Palestinian Red Crescent emergency service said 88 of the injured had been hospitalized. The Palestinian health ministry said 83 people were injured by rubber-coated bullets, including three with gunshots in the eye, two with serious head injuries and two with broken jaws.
Police said protesters threw stones, fireworks and other objects at them, injuring 17 officers, half of whom were hospitalized.
The Al-Aqsa complex is the third holiest site in Islam. It is also the holiest site of the Jews, who call it the Temple Mount because it was the location of the Biblical temples. It has long been a flashpoint in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the epicenter of the 2000 Palestinian Intifada, or uprising.
Palestinians react to stun grenades fired by Israeli police to clear the Damascus Gate of Jerusalem’s Old City after clashes inside the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound on Friday, May 7, 2021. Palestinian worshipers clash with the Israeli police on Friday night at the holy site sacred to Muslims and Jews, in an escalation of weeks of violence in Jerusalem that reverberated throughout the region. (AP Photo / Maya Alleruzzo)
JARED KUSHNER LAUNCHES GROUP TO PROMOTE RELATIONS BETWEEN ARAB STATES AND ISRAEL
Saturday night is “Laylat al-Qadr” or “Night of Destiny”, the most sacred of Ramadan. Thousands of devotees were to gather for intense nightly prayers in Al-Aqsa.
Israeli Police Commissioner Yaakov Shabtai said he ordered reinforcements before Laylat al-Qadr, saying “the right to protest will be respected but public unrest will be met with force and zero tolerance. I call on everyone to act. responsibly and with restraint. “
Police have stopped more than a dozen buses full of Arab citizens on the main road to Jerusalem for Ramadan prayers. Israeli public broadcaster Kan said police stopped buses for a security check, prompting travelers to get out of vehicles, block traffic and pray on the highway in protest. The road was reopened several hours later.
In recent days, protests have grown over the threat of Israel’s expulsion to Sheikh Jarrah, East Jerusalem, of dozens of Palestinians involved in a protracted legal battle with Israeli settlers trying to acquire property in the area. district.
The United States said it was “deeply concerned” about both the violence and threats of evictions, and was in contact with leaders on both sides in an attempt to defuse tensions.
“It is essential to avoid measures that exacerbate tensions or take us away from peace,” the State Department said. “This includes evictions in East Jerusalem, settlement activity, house demolitions and acts of terrorism.”
The European Union also called for calm and expressed concern over the potential expulsions, saying they are “illegal under international humanitarian law and only serve to fuel tensions on the ground”.
Egypt and Jordan, which made peace with Israel decades ago, condemned his actions, as did the Gulf Kingdom of Bahrain, which was one of four Arab countries to have signed normalization agreements. negotiated by the United States with Israel last year.
Israeli police arrested a young Palestinian at the Damascus Gate in Jerusalem’s Old City after clashes inside the Al-Aqsa Mosque on Friday, May 7, 2021. Palestinian worshipers clashed with Israeli police on Friday evening in the holy holy place of Muslims and Jews, in an escalation of weeks of violence in Jerusalem that reverberated throughout the region. (AP Photo / Maya Alleruzzo)
ISRAEL STAMPEDE: AT LEAST 44 KILLED AT RELIGIOUS FESTIVAL IN ISRAEL
Israelis and Palestinians are bracing for more unrest in the days to come.
Sunday evening marks the start of Jerusalem Day, a national holiday during which Israel celebrates its annexation of East Jerusalem and religious nationalists hold parades and other celebrations in the city. On Monday, an Israeli court is expected to deliver a verdict on the deportations.
Israel seized East Jerusalem, as well as the West Bank and Gaza – territories the Palestinians want for their future state – in the 1967 Middle East War. Israel annexed East Jerusalem in an unrecognized move internationally and considers the entire city as its capital.
Palestinians regard East Jerusalem – which includes major holy sites for Jews, Christians and Muslims – as their capital, and its fate is one of the conflict’s most sensitive issues.
In a Palestinian television call on Friday evening, President Mahmoud Abbas praised the “courageous stand” of the protesters and said Israel bears full responsibility for the violence. Abbas postponed scheduled parliamentary elections last week, citing Israeli restrictions in East Jerusalem for the delay.
Israel’s foreign ministry had previously accused the Palestinians of seizing on threats of evictions, which it called “a real estate dispute between private parties”, in order to incite violence.
Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip and opposes Israel’s existence, has called for a new intifada.
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Hamas-affiliated protest groups said they would resume demonstrations and the launching of incendiary balloons along Gaza’s heavily guarded border. Israeli media said the military sent additional troops to the area in response. Hamas has largely curtailed these actions over the past two years as part of an informal ceasefire that now appears to be unraveling.
In an interview with a Hamas-run television station, the group’s main leader, Ismail Haniyeh, warned Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu not to “play with fire”.
“Neither you, nor your army and your police, can win this battle,” he said. “What is happening in Jerusalem is an intifada that must not stop.”