Israeli Forces, Muslim Worshipers Clash in Jerusalem's Old City Over Ramadan Restrictions

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Damascus Gate, Jerusalem, in January, 2019.
Damascus Gate, Jerusalem, in January, 2019. Credit: Emil Salman

Clashes erupted over the past four days in the area of the Damascus Gate in Jerusalem's Old City after Israeli police put barriers that prevented people from sitting on the steps in the plaza outside the gate. Many in East Jerusalem attributed the violent protests, which included stone and bottle throwing as well as vandalizing of police vans, to the decision to close off the steps.

The plaza is the most popular public area during the month of Ramadan, which started this 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.

For four nights in a row, 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.

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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