At Least Ten Palestinians Arrested Amid Clashes With Police in Jerusalem's Old City

Police clash with Palestinian youth at Damascus and Herod gates ■ Israeli police report clashes at Qalandiya border crossing with West Bank, north of Jerusalem

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Police disperse crowds of Palestinian youth at Damascus Gate, tonight
Police disperse crowds of Palestinian youth at Damascus Gate, tonight Credit: Ohad Zwigenberg

Dozens of Palestinian youth clashed with Israeli riot police Saturday night at the Damascus Gate near the Temple Mount compound in Jerusalem. Clashes also broke out near Herod's Gate, where at least ten have been arrested so far. 

In one case a police officer was filmed slapping a Palestinian man in his face before arresting him. Meanwhile a Palestinians attacked a Jewish man while driving in the neighborhood of Wadi al-Joz. Police commissioner, Kobi Shabtai, called the incident an act of terror, while condemning "extremists on both sides" on Saturday. 

1,500 police officers were deployed in east and central Jerusalem, following days of tension and violence in the capital. Police cleared some 50 young people from the area near the Damascus Gate.

Police stand ready to disperse crowdds outside the old city walls in Jerusalem
Police officers are bracing for lone wolf attacks as tensions rise in Jerusalem
1,500 police officers are deployed around Jerusalem
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Police stand ready to disperse crowdds outside the old city walls in Jerusalem
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Police officers are bracing for lone wolf attacks as tensions rise in Jerusalem
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1,500 police officers are deployed around Jerusalem

Police used crowds dispersing methods, such as flash grenades, after officers were targeted by youth throwing objects and stones at them, the police said in a statement.

"Police forces are using the relevant means to restore order and disperse those who are disrupting the peace," the statement read. 

Around 100 protesters also gathered at the West Bank Qalandiya checkpoint, north of Jerusalem, Israel Police said. Officers dispersed the protesters, who according to the police, threw firebombs, stones and are lighting firecrackers at the checkpoint. 

Ramadan tensions

This year, Israeli police have closed the stairs at Damascus Gate during Ramadan, and upped police presence there. In response to a question from reporters, Police Commissioner Kobi Shabtai said that "the status quo forbidding people from sitting in the area around the Damascus Gate has existed for over a decade."

Yet investigations by Haaretz contradict this statement. Testimonies from Old City residents, Israeli activists and photos from the last decade show that the stairs leading to the main square have never been blocked off with barricades, as they have been this year.

The area surrounding the Damascus Gate is one of the main social gathering places for the Palestinian public during Ramadan. In all the photographs located by Haaretz that depict the area during Ramadan in recent years, hundreds of people can be seen gathering there.

However, in times of high tension, and occasionally during Ramadan, the police have been known to forcefully disperse groups of Palestinians and prevent loitering in the area for short periods of time. None of the people Haaretz spoke with can recall a time when the stairs were closed off for the entire month of Ramadan.

In 2016, during a wave of stabbing attacks in the area of the Damascus Gate, Israel closed off the stairs for a number of weeks, however it was not during the month of Ramadan.

Last week, clashes broke out after young Palestinian men tried to breach the barriers. The clashes involved dozens of police officers and residents, who hurled stones and bottles at the police. Twenty Palestinians and a few officers were slightly hurt during the confrontations.

Since then, violence in Jerusalem between its Jewish and Arab residents has been on the rise with several incidents causing tensions to escalate. 

Regarding the recent violence in Jerusalem's old city, Shabtai said Saturday evening that he "condemns extremists on both sides."

The police said that stones had been thrown at the Justice Ministry building and toward Israeli cars passing through Palestinian neighborhoods in the city.

Police are on the lookout for lone wolf attacks against Jews or Arabs in Jerusalem, following the uptick in violence near the Damascus Gate and the center of Jerusalem in recent days. Police sources told Haaretz that while they are aware of warning signs, they have no information on planned attacks.

A weekend of violence

Protests on Thursday night set off a weekend of violent incidents pereptrated by both Arabs and Jews. 

During the protests, initiated by far-right Jewish extremist group Lehava, over 100 Palestinians were injured, and at least 50 people were arrested, including both Jewish extremists and Palestinians. 

On Friday afternoon a Jewish pedestrian in East Jerusalem was beaten by a group of Palestinian youths. The pedestrian was able to flee the scene.

A number of Jewish people reported being attacked on their way to prayers at the Western Wall. All of them escaped without injury.

Also on Friday evening, a Palestinian was detained by police on suspicion of slapping two Jewish pedestrians in the center of the city. The two victims were armed and drew a weapon, and the suspect fled. He later arrived at the police station to lodge a complaint and was arrested on suspicion of instigating the attack on the two.

Attackers threw stones and confronted two Jewish pedestrians in the East Jerusalem neighborhood French Hill.

In the Beit Dvash settlement in the Silwan neighborhood of East Jerusalem, Jewish residents reported having firebombs and stones thrown at them, with one person being hit in the head by a stone thrown at his home. In two separate incidents, fights broke out between security guards and Palestinian residents. Police who arrived at the scene used riot dispersal methods. 

There were reports of a number of cars belonging to Jewish Israelis being pelted with stones while driving through Palestinian neighborhoods.

There were no reports of injuries requiring medical treatment in any of the incidents.

On Friday evening, following Ramadan prayers at the Temple Mount, clashes broke out between hundreds of Palestinian youth and police forces. According to a police statements, the Palestinians threw stones and set off fireworks. Four officers were injured and received treatment at the scene. 

Clashes also broke out in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Issawiyah. Police used riot dispersal methods to clear the scene.

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