Police violence in Jerusalem for a second night

Israeli police violence in Jerusalem for a second night
3 min read
Violence erupted in annexed East Jerusalem for a second night, with Israeli police attacking Palestinians.
At least 105 Palestinians were injured [Getty]

Israeli police scuffled with Palestinians for a second night Friday in annexed east Jerusalem, amid mounting tensions over a ban on gatherings, and anger fuelled by videos posted of attacks.

The fresh violence came after clashes overnight Thursday, in which the Palestinian Red Crescent reported at least 105 wounded, of whom around 20 were transferred to hospital, while the Israeli police said 20 officers had been injured.

It had flared on Thursday outside one of the entrances to the walled Old City, after police had barred access to some areas where Palestinians usually gather in large numbers during the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan.

Tensions were fuelled by the arrival of far-right Jews at the end of a march during which they harassed Palestinians and chanted "death to Arabs".

After calm during daylight hours on Friday, scuffles broke out again as thousands of Muslim worshippers left Al-Aqsa Mosque compound after evening prayers, when they found themselves confronted by dozens of armed police, including officers on horseback.

Clashes broke out between worshippers and police, with water bottles hurled at officers who fired stun grenades to disperse the crowd.

Also on Friday, hundreds of Palestinians gathered at the Qalandiya crossing between Jerusalem and the city of Ramallah in the occupied West Bank, police said.

There have been nightly disturbances in the area since the start of Ramadan on 13 April, with Palestinians outraged over police blocking access to the promenade around the walls, a popular gathering place after the end of the daytime Ramadan fast.

'War zone'

Stun grenades were fired and water cannon deployed to disperse the "rioters" and force them towards less central areas of east Jerusalem, police said.

Officers attempted to "distinguish between them and those who finished prayers" and were not involved in the events.

"It was like a war zone; it was dangerous," a Palestinian who was near the clashes outside the Old City told AFP, of the violence on Thursday. "That's why I left the place."

Tensions have been high in Jerusalem after a series of videos posted online in recent days showing young Arabs attacking ultra-Orthodox Jews and Jewish extremists taking to the street to bully Arabs in nightly confrontations.

On Thursday night, the Israeli extreme right group Lehava organised a march ending opposite the Old City attended by hundreds to protest the anti-Jewish violence.

Police erected barriers to keep them from entering the mainly Arab location.

The Palestinian presidency condemned "the growing incitement by extremist far-right Israeli settler groups advocating for the killing of Arabs, which in recent days manifested in a wave of attacks against Palestinian civilians in the Old City".

A statement late Thursday on the official Palestinian news agency Wafa urged the international community to protect Palestinians from the attacks by settlers, which it alleged were encouraged by the Israeli government.

Calls for calm

Jordan condemned the "provocations" carried out by the "extremist" Jewish groups, calling on Israel to prevent such incidents and lift restrictions on access to Al-Aqsa mosque.

Videos on social media also showed Palestinians attacking ultra-Orthodox Jews in the early hours of Friday, with reports of Israeli vehicles being stoned in and near east Jerusalem.

The UN envoy for the Middle East peace process, Tor Wennesland, called Thursday on "all sides" to "de-escalate tensions and maintain calm”.

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The US embassy in Israel said Friday it was "deeply concerned" about the Jerusalem violence, expressing hope for an "end to incitement" and "return to calm".

The European Union also called for "restraint".

Jerusalem mayor Moshe Lion said he tried to cancel the Lehava march, but police told him it was legal, noting that "dozens" of Jews who attacked Arabs had been arrested in the past two weeks.

Speaking with public broadcaster Kan, Lion said he was in talks with leaders of the Palestinian east Jerusalem neighbourhoods "to end this pointless violence”.

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