© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: An Israeli policeman gestures as others aim their weapons during clashes with Palestinians in the compound that houses the Al-Aqsa Mosque, known to Muslims as the Noble Shrine and to Jews as name of Temple Mount, amidst the tension over possible eviction
By Stephen Farrell and Maayan Lubell
JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Clashes erupted between Palestinian protesters and Israeli police outside Jerusalem’s Old City on Saturday as tens of thousands of Muslim worshipers pray at the nearby Al-Aqsa Mosque on the holy night from Islam to Laylat al-Qadr.
Young Palestinians threw stones, set fires and demolished police barricades in the streets leading to the fortified gates of the Old City as officers on horseback and in riot gear used stun grenades and water cannons to repel them.
At least 64 people were injured, including minors and a one-year-old child, and 11 were taken to hospital, the Palestinian Red Crescent said. Israeli police said at least one officer was injured.
“They don’t want us to pray. There is a fight every day, every day there are clashes. Every day there is unrest,” said Mahmoud al-Marbua, 27, speaking closely. of the Old City Damascus Gate as police chased young people and fired. thunderbolts on them.
Tensions have mounted in the city throughout the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, amid growing anger over the potential eviction of Palestinians from homes in Jerusalem on land claimed by Jewish settlers.
In the Palestinian Gaza Strip, hundreds of demonstrators gathered along the border with Israel. The IDF said the crowd threw tires and burning firecrackers at the troops.
Gaza militants fired at least one rocket at Israel which landed in an open area, the army said.
“We salute Ppl. D’Al-Aqsa, who opposes the arrogance of the Zionists and we call on our ppl. In Palestine to support their brothers by all means,” Moussa Abu Marzouk, a leader of the armed Islamist group Hamas, which runs Gaza, said on Twitter.
Israel said it was beefing up security forces on Saturday in anticipation of further clashes in Jerusalem, the occupied West Bank and Gaza after heavy clashes erupted the night before at the Al-Aqsa Mosque.
A Palestinian official said Egypt was mediating between the parties to prevent further escalation and the violence on Saturday appeared to be less severe than the events on Friday.
Police fired rubber bullets and stun grenades at young Palestinians throwing stones at the mosque on Noble Sanctuary / Temple Mount Square, dedicated to Muslims and Jews, on Friday.
At least 205 Palestinians and 18 Israeli officers were injured in Friday’s clashes, which sparked international condemnation and calls for calm.
Clashes erupted nightly in Sheikh Jarrah in East Jerusalem – a neighborhood where many Palestinian families face deportation in a long-standing court case. Police said dozens of protesters threw stones at police officers on Saturday.
Police commissioner Yaakov Shabtai said additional officers were deployed to Jerusalem on Saturday to “allow freedom of worship and maintain order and security.”
“At the same time, we will not allow violent riots, breaking the law or attacking the police. We call on everyone to calm their spirits and violence, especially on such an important day for the Muslim religion, ”Shabtai said in a statement.
The IDF said it was reinforcing its troops in the West Bank and near the Gaza Strip, where Palestinians sent incendiary balloons over the border, igniting bushfires in Israeli territory. A military spokesperson said additional forces would largely be firefighting forces.
CALL FROM THE QUARTET
The quartet of mediators from the Middle East – the United States, Russia, the European Union and the United Nations have expressed concern about the violence and potential expulsions from Jerusalem.
“We call on the Israeli authorities to exercise restraint and avoid measures that would further aggravate the situation during this period of Muslim holy days,” the Quartet said in a statement.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement that law and order will be maintained in Jerusalem, as will the right to worship.
TV footage showed buses of Muslim worshipers heading from Israeli Arab towns to Al-Aqsa, stopped by police on the main road to Jerusalem.
News of the roadblock spread across social media, drawing hundreds of young men from nearby Arab villages and Jerusalem.
Dozens of people drove their cars the wrong way on the now empty lanes to Jerusalem, picking up fellow Muslims who had abandoned their own vehicles to begin the climb on foot. Some chanted in Arabic: “With our souls and our blood we will redeem you, Al-Aqsa!”
Police said they were only arresting those planning to take part in riots before buses were allowed to continue. Scuffles broke out and footage showed officers firing stun grenades.
The tension is expected to remain elevated for the next few days. The Supreme Court of Israel will hold a hearing on Sheikh Jarrah’s deportations on Monday, the same day Israel celebrates Jerusalem Day – its annual celebration of its capture of East Jerusalem during the 1967 Middle East War.
The Palestinians want East Jerusalem to be the capital of a future state. Israel claims the entire city as its eternal and indivisible capital. Its annexation of the eastern part was not internationally recognized.