Israel Bolsters Police Presence in East Jerusalem as Tensions Rise Ahead of First Ramadan Prayers

Clashes have broken out during the past three nights after police closed off steps by Damascus gate, a spot where Palestinians traditionally hang out on Ramadan nights

Nir Hasson
Nir Hasson
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Preparations for Ramadan at al-Aqsa compound
Preparations for Ramadan at al-Aqsa compound, this weekCredit: Ammar Awad/Reuters
Nir Hasson
Nir Hasson

Israel has bolstered forces in preparations for the first Friday prayers of Ramadan in East Jerusalem and amid rising friction between the police and local Palestinians.

In a departure from previous years, Israel is only permitting 10,000 West Bank residents, all of whom must be vaccinated, to attend the prayers.

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It remains unclear how many will be permitted to enter in the end, but it is set to be a far cry from tens of thousands that have been allowed to visit in the past. The police have organized a sizeable force around the Old City ahead of the prayer.

The tension began this week in the wake of the police decision to close off the steps leading to Damascus Gate using barricades, leaving only a narrow passage, in spite of the fact that hundreds of Palestinians traditionally gather to sit on the steps during Ramadan nights.

Clashes have broken out during the past three nights after Palestinian youth tried to remove the police barricades. The clashes involved dozens of police and young Palestinians, who threw stones and bottles. One policeman and around 10 Palestinians were injured and required treatment. Police arrested a number of suspects.

These steps outside Jerusalem's Damascus Gate are a popular hangout for Palestinians during Ramadan Credit: Ohad Zwigenberg

Furthermore, the police forced Wednesday the al-Aqsa Mosque to switch off its speakers so as not to bother the opening Memorial Day ceremony at the Western Wall, as first reported by Channel 12 News.

Tens of thousands of Palestinians are expected to participate in the Friday afternoon prayers on Temple Mount.

Meanwhile, Israeli leftists and Palestinian residents of the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah are preparing for a demonstration on Friday afternoon against the entry of settlers into the neighborhood and the eviction of Palestinian families from their homes.

Last week, police assaulted Joint List legislator Ofer Cassif during a protest there, and organizers say they expect hundreds to protest on Friday against the police and settlers there.

Women clean the Temple Mount ahead of Ramadan prayers, earlier this weekCredit: AMMAR AWAD / REUTERS

The police also arrested on Friday a young Palestinian resident of Beit Hanina in wake of a TikTok video that spread on social media Thursday, in which he is seeing hitting an ultra-Orthodox Jewish boy on Jerusalem’s light rail. He is due to have a hearing later Friday to extend his remand.

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