Israeli police have arrested 22 Palestinians on Tuesday as hundreds clashed with police forces at East Jerusalem's Damascus Gate, amid growing tensions over the past two weeks.
These are the most serious clashes in the area since the violence that broke out in May. At least 20 Palestinians were lightly wounded, and two passengers were lightly wounded when a bus was pelted with stones. Bus travel to the Western Wall area was suspended.
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Palestinians gathered at Damascus Gate to mark the birth of the Prophet Muhammad. Police said that the arrests were carried out after the youths threw bottles and stones at them.
One Palestinian woman was filmed arguing with a police officer, spitting at him and trying to escape. He pursued her, pulled her to the ground by her hair, and arrested her.
In response to the incident, the Israel Police said: “From what can be seen in the video, the suspect was arrested after spitting at an officer. During the arrest, she tried to escape with the aid of the surrounding crowd, therefore the officer used force to make the arrest."
"We will continue to act against those who disrupt public order and try to hurt police officers and Border Police troops who are working to ensure our peace and safety,” the statement read.
On Sunday, the bus company Egged announced its buses would no longer complete the route down Sultan Suleiman Street to the Western Wall bus station to avoid constant stoning.
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“In the last few weeks, Egged buses have been subject to violent attacks of stone-throwing in the area. Because of the danger this poses, it was decided to have passengers get off before the Kotel bus stop. We expect the police to help us ensure passenger safety,” the company said.
Palestinian sources said the latest wave of clashes began earlier this month when rightist activists gathered at the Damascus Gate to celebrate a birthday and provoked and cursed at nearby Palestinians. Jewish youths were filmed throwing stones at Palestinians.
After the incidents, calls circulated on Palestinian social media to come to the area. Since then, hundreds of young Palestinians have congregated nearly every evening near the gate, just outside the Old City. Police have sought to disperse them in a variety of ways, including the use of “skunk” water, stun grenades and clubs. In some cases, they have been documented using clubs unnecessarily.
In one case last week, a police officer named Fadi Ghanem beat a young Palestinian near Damascus Gate. In the video, the young man can be seen complaining to an officer that another policeman had beaten him and the officer replying, “Do you want me to hit you in the other leg?” Before the youth could reply, the officer hit him with a club, and the youth fled.