For Sixth Night in a Row, Palestinians Confront Israeli Police in Jerusalem's Old City

Police detain three of the hundreds of demonstrators, who came out once more to protest an Israeli decision to restrict access to the Damascus Gate plaza

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Damascus Gate in Jerusalem Sunday.
Damascus Gate in Jerusalem Sunday.Credit: Ohad Zwigenberg

Israeli police clashed on Sunday with hundreds of Palestinians in Jerusalem's Old City for the sixth night in a row, amid a row over an Israeli decision to put up barriers preventing people from sitting in the Damascus Gate plaza.

Police used water cannons, stun grenades and other riot control gear against the crowd, even though at least most protesters remained nonviolent.

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Three were detained for assaulting officers, police said.

The plaza is the most popular public area during the month of Ramadan, which started last week, with tens of thousands of people passing through or sitting there every evening.

The police explained that the barriers were not meant to hurt the public or prevent gatherings but to allow a better flow of pedestrians into the Old City.

The police are expecting that the recent confrontations in Jerusalem and Jaffa will last for another few days as the Ramadan fast continues and the coronavirus restrictions are lifted. 

One of the fears the police raised in their situation assessment was that the riots will intensify into attempts of individual Arabs to carry out terrorist attacks against Jews, especially in the Jerusalem area.

In an attempt to defuse tensions, police officials in Jerusalem will hold talks in the next few days with those described as “public opinion leaders” including religious figures. 

Two prominent far-right Israeli leaders, Religious Zionism chairman Bezalel Smotrich and Jerusalem's Deputy Mayor Aryeh King, said they toured the area on Sunday night "to make sure that the surging Arab violence is being taken care of."

The first Friday prayers during Ramadan took place on Temple Mount this weekend. Around 70,000 people participated in the prayers, which ended with no clashes.

This was a relatively low number of worshipers, since Israel allowed only 10,000 people from the West Bank to enter Jerusalem, in contrast to tens of thousands in recent years. Israel also demanded that worshipers be vaccinated before entering the city.

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