Kahanist, Far-right Lawmakers Visit Jerusalem's Old City After Palestinians Clash With Police

Nir Hasson
Nir Hasson
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Bezalel Smotrich and Itamar Ben-Gvir at the flash point Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah, in May.
Bezalel Smotrich and Itamar Ben-Gvir at the flash point Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah, in May. Credit: Ohad Zwigenberg
Nir Hasson
Nir Hasson

Kahanist and far-right lawmakers visited the Damascus Gate in Jerusalem’s Old City on Wednesday, a day after heavy clashes at the site led to at least 20 Palestinians being wounded and 22 arrested.

Two people were lightly wounded when stones were thrown at a bus during Tuesday’s clashes.

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The lawmakers, Religious Zionism Chairman Bezalel Smotrich and his party colleague Itamar Ben-Gvir, are known for their anti-Arab rhetoric. Last week, Smotrich said in the Knesset that Arab lawmakers were “here by mistake.” They have previously visited flash point sites in Jerusalem during times of tension, sparking protests.

“We came here because every evening, Jews experience attacks and harassment in the capital,” said Smotrich, adding that “the obsequiousness of [Prime Minister Naftali] Bennett toward [United Arab Chairman] Mansour Abbas and the Islamic Movement is leading to a loss of governance in large areas throughout the country.”

The clashes at the Damascus Gate on Tuesday were the worst since widespread Jewish-Arab violence during the latest round of fighting between Israel and Gaza in May. Palestinians gathered at the gate on Tuesday 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.

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.

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