#AceNewsReport – May.09: Israeli police have clashed with Palestinian protesters outside Jerusalem’s Old City during the holiest night of Ramadan in a show of force that threatens to deepen the city’s worst religious unrest in several years.
Scores of Palestinians injured in Jerusalem during second night of clashes: The current wave of protests broke out at the beginning of Ramadan three weeks ago when Israel restricted gatherings at a popular meeting spot outside Jerusalem’s Old City.
Posted 6h ago, updated 6h ago
Jerusalem: Many injured on second night of clashes
7 hours ago: Clashes in Jerusalem continue
Fresh clashes between Palestinians and Israeli police broke out in Jerusalem on Saturday, injuring dozens.
Protesters hurled stones at the police at Damascus Gate in the Old City, and officers responded with stun grenades, rubber bullets and water cannon.
Palestinian medics said 90 Palestinians were wounded. Israeli police said at least one officer was hurt.
It follows days of simmering unrest over possible evictions of Palestinians from land claimed by Jewish settlers.
On Friday, more than 200 Palestinians and at least 17 Israeli police were wounded in skirmishes near Al-Aqsa mosque, emergency workers and police said.
Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa mosque complex is one of Islam’s most revered sites, but its location is also the holiest site in Judaism, known as the Temple Mount. The complex is a frequent flashpoint for violence, but Friday’s was among the worst in years.
The Quartet of Middle East negotiators – the US, the EU, Russia and the UN – on Saturday expressed “deep concern” over the spiralling violence.
In a separate development on Saturday, Israel’s military said a rocket was fired by Palestinian militants from the Hamas-run Gaza Strip into Israel.
“In response, our aircraft just struck a Hamas military post in southern Gaza,”the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) tweeted.
The IDF did not provide any more details, but Israeli media reported that the rocket landed in an open field causing no injuries or damage.
ReutersA number of injured people were taken to hospital, the Palestinian Red Crescent emergency service said
Saturday’s clashes broke out at Damascus Gate after tens of thousands of worshippers had prayed at Al-Aqsa mosque for Laylat al-Qadr, the most holy night in the Muslim month of Ramadan.
The Palestinian Red Crescent said at least 90 Palestinians were hurt, and 14 were taken to hospital.
Earlier on Saturday, Israeli police had stopped dozens of buses carrying worshippers to the mosque, and a number of Palestinians were arrested after Friday’s violence.
“They do not want us to pray. There is a fight every day, every day there are clashes. Every day there are troubles,” Mahmoud al-Marbua, 27, told Reuters news agency.
Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said his country was acting responsibly to ensure law and order while maintaining freedom of worship.
Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas condemned what he said were Israel’s “sinful attacks”.
What’s the background to this?
Israel has occupied East Jerusalem since the 1967 Middle East war and considers the entire city its capital, though this is not recognised by the vast majority of the international community.
Palestinians claim East Jerusalem as the future capital of a hoped-for independent state.
Tensions have been rising over the threatened eviction of Palestinian families in East Jerusalem’s Shaikh Jarrah district.
The UN says Israel should call off any evictions and employ “maximum restraint in the use of force” against protesters.
The League of Arab States has called on the international community to intervene to prevent any forced evictions.
Israel’s Supreme Court is expected to hold a hearing on the long-running legal case on Monday.
Earlier, police blocked busloads of pilgrims headed to Jerusalem for prayer at Islam’s third holiest site.
Police have defended their actions as security moves, but they are seen as provocations by Muslims who accuse Israel of threatening their freedom of worship.
Competing claims to east Jerusalem, home to major shrines of Judaism, Islam and Christianity, lie at the heart of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and have triggered serious violence in the past.
The unrest came a day after violence in which Palestinian medics said more than 200 Palestinians were injured in clashes at the Al-Aqsa mosque compound and elsewhere in Jerusalem.
Friday’s violence drew condemnation from Israel’s Arab allies and calls for calm from the United States, Europe and the United Nations. The Arab League scheduled an emergency meeting on Monday.
The Israeli military said Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip fired a rocket at the country’s south that fell in an open area. In response, aircraft struck a military post for Hamas, the militant group ruling the territory.
There were no reports of casualties in either attack.
Violence on the Night of Destiny
Police chief Koby Shabtai said he had deployed more police in Jerusalem following Friday night’s clashes, which left 18 police officers injured.
After weeks of nightly violence, Israelis and Palestinians were bracing for more conflict in the coming days.
“The right to demonstrate will be respected but public disturbances will be met with force and zero tolerance. I call on everyone to act responsibly and with restraint,” Mr Shabtai said.
Saturday night was Laylat al-Qadr or the “Night of Destiny”, the most sacred in the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
Islamic authorities estimated 90,000 people gathered for night-time prayers at Al-Aqsa, the third-holiest site in Islam.
A large crowd of protesters chanted “God is great” outside the Old City’s Damascus Gate and some pelted police with rocks and water bottles. Police patrols fired stun grenades as they moved through the area and a police truck periodically fired a water cannon.
Palestinian medics said 64 Palestinians were injured, mostly by rubber bullets, stun grenades or beatings, among them a woman whose face was bloodied. Eleven people were hospitalised, medics said.
One man with a small boy yelled at the police as they marched by: “You should be ashamed!”
Earlier, police reported clashes in the Old City, near Al-Aqsa, and in the nearby east Jerusalem neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah, where dozens of Palestinians are fighting attempts by Israeli settlers to evict them from their homes.
Police reported several arrests and said one officer was struck in the face with a rock.
Earlier Saturday, police stopped a convoy of buses that were filled with Arab citizens on the main highway heading to Jerusalem for Ramadan prayers. Israel’s public broadcaster, Kan, said police stopped the buses for a security check.
Muslims fast from dawn to dusk during Ramadan, and travellers, upset that they were stopped without explanation on a hot day, exited the buses and blocked the highway in protest.
Kan showed footage of the protesters praying, chanting slogans and marching along the highway toward Jerusalem. The road was reopened several hours later.
Ibtasam Maraana, an Arab member of Parliament, accused police of a “terrible attack” on freedom of religion.
“Police: Remember that they are citizens, not enemies,” she wrote on Twitter.
Israel removed the restrictions, briefly calming the situation, but protests have reignited in recent days over the threatened evictions in east Jerusalem, which is claimed by both sides in their decades-old conflict.
Other recent developments, including the postponement of Palestinian elections, deadly violence in which a Palestinian teenager, two Palestinian gunmen and a young Israeli man were killed in separate incidents in the West Bank, and the election to Israel’s Parliament of a far-right Jewish nationalist party, also have contributed to the tense atmosphere.
One right-wing politician, Itamar Ben-Gvir, briefly set up an outdoor “office” in the heart of a Palestinian neighbourhood last week, infuriating residents.
On Sunday evening, Jewish Israelis begin marking Jerusalem Day, a national holiday in which Israel celebrates its annexation of east Jerusalem and religious nationalists hold parades and other celebrations in the city.
An Israeli court is expected to issue a verdict on the planned evictions in Sheikh Jarrah on Monday.
US ‘deeply concerned’ about violence, evictions
Israel captured east Jerusalem, along with the West Bank and Gaza — territories the Palestinians want for their future state — in the 1967 Mideast war.
Israel annexed east Jerusalem in a move not recognised internationally, and views the entire city as its capital. The Palestinians view east Jerusalem — which includes major holy sites for Jews, Christians and Muslims — as their capital, and its fate is one of the most sensitive issues in the conflict.
The Al-Aqsa mosque compound is the third holiest site in Islam. It is also the holiest site for Jews, who refer to it as the Temple Mount because it was the location of the biblical temples. It has long been a flashpoint in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
In recent days, protests have grown over Israel’s threatened eviction in Sheikh Jarrah of dozens of Palestinians embroiled in a long legal battle with Israeli settlers trying to acquire property in the neighbourhood.
The United States said it was “deeply concerned” about both the violence and the threatened evictions. The so-called Quartet of Mideast peace makers, which includes the US, European Union, Russia and United Nations, also expressed concern.
Egypt and Jordan, which made peace with Israel decades ago, condemned Israel’s actions, as did the Gulf countries of Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates, two of the four Arab countries that signed US-brokered normalisation agreements with Israel last year. The UAE expressed “strong condemnation” of Israel’s storming of Al-Aqsa.
In a call to Palestinian TV late Friday, President Mahmoud Abbas praised the “courageous stand” of the protesters and said Israel bore full responsibility for the violence. Mr Abbas last week postponed planned parliamentary elections, citing Israeli restrictions in east Jerusalem for the delay.
Israel’s Foreign Ministry had earlier accused the Palestinians of seizing on the threatened evictions, which it described as a “real-estate dispute between private parties”, in order to incite violence.
Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip and opposes Israel’s existence, has called for a new intifada, or uprising.
Late Saturday, several dozen protesters gathered along Gaza’s volatile frontier with Israel, burning tires and throwing small explosives. Israeli forces fired tear gas at the crowd. No injuries were immediately reported.
In an interview with a Hamas-run TV station, the group’s top leader Ismail Haniyeh warned Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu not to “play with fire” in Jerusalem.
“Neither you, nor your army and police, can win this battle,” he said.
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