100 Palestinians Injured as Jerusalem Clashes Continue for Second Night

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Over 90,000 praying at Temple Mount as Israeli police prepare for renewed clashes, May 2021.
Over 90,000 praying at Temple Mount as Israeli police prepare for renewed clashes, May 2021.Credit: Ahmad GHARABLI / AFP)

About 100 Palestinians were injured in violent clashes between Israeli forces and Palestinians in Jerusalem overnight Saturday into Sunday morning, as some 90,000 Muslim worshipers poured into Al-Aqsa Mosque to mark Ramadan's holiest night.

Clashes were concentrated on the Temple Mount, at various sites in the Old City and in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah. They follow escalating tensions in the city throughout the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, and have garnered international condemnation.

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Hundreds of young Palestinians threw fireworks and stones at police after early morning prayers on Sunday morning. Most of them dispersed, but a few dozen remain at the site, clashing with officers. The Palestinian Red Crescent reported that 10 people were injured in the morning's clashes; six of them were evacuated to the hospital.

The Red Crescent established a field hospital near Al-Aqsa Mosque to treat the injured, who were hit by sponge-tipped bullets, stun grenades and tear gas fired by Israeli police. 

The organization said that it treated another 90 people over the course of the night, 14 of them at the field hospital. Six children were bruised in the commotion, including a one-year-old infant.

The Red Crescent had reported earlier in the night that the Israeli police had prevented its ambulances from entering the Damascus Gate area to evacuate the injured.    

Police evacuated the Western Wall plaza twice over the course of the night after Palestinians fired fireworks at the area, but worshipers returned minutes later.

Arab-Israelis reacting to stun grenades thrown at them by Israeli police on Highway 1 leading to Jerusalem, May 2021.Credit: Ohad Zwigenberg
Route 1 to Jerusalem closed to traffic as Muslim worshippers make their way to Al Aqsa on Saturday.Credit: Ohad Zwigenberg

Police Commissioner Yaakov Shabtai said that police had regained control over the situation by about 1:30 A.M., and that about 20,000 Muslim worshipers remained on the Temple Mount.

In Sheikh Jarrah, which has become a flashpoint for violence between Jews and Palestinians in the past week over the planned evictions of Palestinian homes in the neighborhood, police dispersed the dozens of protesters who had gathered with stun grenades and stink grenades. Palestinians also pelted a car belonging to Jews with stones.

Police said that the clashes involved "Waving Palestinian flags and throwing stones at officers. Police began dispersions and were forced to use means." Two Palestinians were arrested on suspicion of pepper spraying officers. During the arrest, police said that they found weapons on their persons.

Earlier in the evening, police reported that they arrested two suspects who attacked police officers in the Old City. One officer was lightly injured and received medical treatment after Palestinian protesters began throwing stones at police forces.

A rocket was fired from Gaza into Israel in the early hours of Sunday morning, landing in an open area. The IDF responded by attacking a Hamas military post in the southern Gaza Strip.

Police carry off a protester in Sheikh Jarrah protests, earlier this weekCredit: Ohad Zwigenberg

The Israeli army said some 450 Gazans protested near the border fence in solidarity with the Palestinians in Jerusalem. The Israeli military said that protesters are "burning tires and throwing explosives. IDF soldiers are spread out at sites along the border and are using riot dispersal methods." According to Palestinian reports, dozens, not hundreds, of Palestinian youth are protesting at the border.

To Jerusalem on foot

Earlier Saturday, the Jerusalem police halted dozens of buses carrying worshippers on their way to the Al-Aqsa Mosque complex.

Hundreds of worshippers made their way to the Old City on foot. Police argued that they had reason to believe that some of the passengers were planning to cause disturbances.

The Israeli Police spokesman Eli Levi said that the police had no intention of closing the road to Jerusalem, but rather were attempting to remove specific individuals from the buses. The police eventually allowed the buses to continue on to Jerusalem.

The police later allowed the buses to carry the passengers to Jerusalem, after they caused severe roadblocks on the Highway. 

The Israeli army, police and Magen David Adom bolstered their presence in East Jerusalem and around the Temple Mount on Saturday, as they expect violent clashes between Israeli security forces and Palestinians will continue through the night.

Police believe the clashes on the Temple Mount are led by Hamas operatives, and that they are linked to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' decision to postpone the Palestinian parliamentary elections this month. 

Activists arrested

Israel Police carried out arrests of 29 Palestinians in East Jerusalem raids earlier Saturday afternoon according to Palestinian activists. The police have been arresting young Palestinians and activists since early Saturday morning, according to the activists.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with Defense Minister Benny Gantz, IDF chief of staff Aviv Kochavi, the head of Shin Bet and other senior officials on Saturday to assess the situation in Jerusalem. 

"Israel is acting responsibly to ensure law and order in Jerusalem while maintaining freedom of worship in the holy places," Netanyahu said in a statement. 

Gantz also commented on the escalation in Jerusalem, saying that "Extremists on both sides cannot be allowed to cause an escalation of the situation. Israel will continue to ensure freedom of worship at the Temple Mount and at the same time not allow terror to raise its head or disturb public order.” 

Adding to the tensions in Jerusalem's Old City, dozens of young Jewish activists marched through the Muslim Quarter of the Old City ahead of the Al Qadr night, singing the Israeli song "Jerusalem of Gold."

Rallies were also held in Israeli-Arab cities on Saturday, with protesters waving Palestinian flags in solidarity with the Palestinians who were injured in East Jerusalem on Friday. The rallies took place in Nazareth, Umm al-Fahm, Tamra and other Arab-Israeli towns. A peaceful protest also took place in Jaffa, which ended just before sunset. 

'Crosses a red line'

On Friday night, at least 205 Palestinians and 17 police officers were wounded as clashes erupted at Jerusalem's Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, in a serious escalation in tensions that have been building up in Jerusalem over the past weeks.

United Arab List chairman Mansour Abbas declared that he won't allow any escalations at Al-Aqsa to prevent freedom of worship for Muslims, calling every injury sustained by a worshipper an act which 'crosses a red line.'

The United States called for both sides to ease tensions on Friday night. 

"The United States is extremely concerned about ongoing confrontations in Jerusalem, including on the Haram al-Sharif / Temple Mount and in Sheikh Jarrah, which have reportedly resulted in scores of injured people," State Department spokesperson Ned Price said in perhaps the Biden administration's most in-depth comment on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to date.

Jordan and Egypt fiercely condemned Israel for the violence, saying it's on Israel to uphold freedom of worship for Palestinian locals. 

A spokesperson for the Jordanian Foreign Ministry warned against a "dangerous escalation," emphasizing that an international law tasks Israel responsible for upholding peace for worshippers at Al-Aqsa, even as an occupying force. 

Egypt's Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Ahmed Hafez slammed Israel's behavior, especially abusing the human rights of Palestinians, and Israel's unacceptable efforts to uproot Palestinians from their homes in the flash point East Jerusalem neighborhood Sheikh Jarrah.

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