EU urges authorities to 'de-escalate' Jerusalem tensions

EU urges authorities to 'de-escalate' Jerusalem tensions
2 min read
The European Union called on 'all sides' to stop 'violence and incitement' in occupied east Jerusalem.
More than 80 Palestinians were hospitalised in overnight protests [Getty]
The European Union on Saturday condemned violence against Palestinian worshippers at Jerusalem's flashpoint Al-Aqsa mosque compound and urged authorities to quickly calm tensions. 

"Violence and incitement are unacceptable and the perpetrators on all sides must be held accountable," a spokesman said in a statement. 

"The European Union calls on the authorities to act urgently to de-escalate the current tensions in Jerusalem."

The statement added that "acts of incitement around the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif must be avoided and the status quo has to be respected", using another term for the key religious site. 

It said "political, religious and community leaders on all sides should show restraint and responsibility and make every effort to calm down this volatile situation".

More than 200 people were wounded when Israeli riot police stormed the Al-Aqsa mosque compound late on Friday, firing tear gas and rubber-coaed bullets at thousands of worshippers gathered on one of the final days of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

Stones, bottles and fireworks were hurled at officers who fired rubber bullets and stun grenades at the crowds at Islam's third-holiest site, also revered by Jews as the location of two biblical-era temples.

Police said officers had restored order because of the "rioting of thousands of worshippers" after evening prayers.

Tensions in Jerusalem have soared in recent weeks as Palestinians have protested against Israel's restrictions on access to parts of the Old City during Ramadan, and amid a campaign to forcibly evict several Palestinians from their homes in occupied east Jerusalem.

The EU statement condemned the attempted evictions as "illegal" and blamed them for increasing tensions.  

"The situation with regard to the evictions of Palestinian families in Sheikh Jarrah and other areas of East Jerusalem is also of serious concern," it said.

"Such actions are illegal under international humanitarian law and only serve to fuel tensions on the ground."

The United States has said it is "deeply concerned" about both the violence and the threatened evictions.

"It is critical to avoid steps that exacerbate tensions or take us farther away from peace," the US State Department said in a statement. "This includes evictions in East Jerusalem, settlement activity, home demolitions, and acts of terrorism."

Israel occupied east Jerusalem, along with the West Bank and Gaza in the 1967 Arab-Israeli war. Israel later annexed east Jerusalem in a move considered illegal under international and views the entire city as its capital.

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