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Al-Aqsa Mosque: Israeli police clash with Palestinians in Jerusalem

Aqsa Mosque: Israeli police clash with Palestinians in Jerusalem

More than 205 Palestinians and 17 Israeli police officers wounded during a night of intense clashes at a sacred Jerusalem site – Al-Aqsa Mosque, that holds the Dome of the Rock, medics and police said.

 

Israeli police broke into the prayer room at the mosque in East Jerusalem as several hundred Palestinians stayed on after Friday prayers to protest against potential evictions of Palestinians from homes on land claimed by Jewish settlers.

At least 178 Palestinians and six officers were injured in the night-time clashes at Islam’s third-holiest site and around East Jerusalem.

 

Israel’s supreme court will hold a hearing on the long-running eviction legal case in Sheikh Jarrah on Monday, as nightly clashes have continued during Ramadan.

 

 


Palestinian youth threw stones, lit fires and tore down police barricades in the streets leading to the walled Old City gates as Israeli security forces on horseback and in riot gear deployed stun grenades and water cannon.

 

The clashes came the day after Israeli forces stormed Al-Aqsa and injured more than 200 Palestinians.

 

Tensions have mounted in the city, the occupied West Bank and Gaza throughout the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, amid growing anger about the potential eviction of Palestinians from East Jerusalem homes on land claimed by Jewish settlers.

 

Israeli border guards have, during the past few days, used skunk water, tear gas, rubber-coated bullets and shock grenades to disperse sit-ins held in support of the families facing eviction in the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood.

 

 


At least 205 Palestinians and 18 Israeli officers were injured in Friday’s confrontations, which drew international condemnations and calls for calm.

Aqsa Mosque: Israeli police clash with Palestinians in Jerusalem
Al-Aqsa Mosque: Israeli police clash with Palestinians in Jerusalem

The Palestinians are complaining of oppressive restrictions during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. An upcoming Israeli court ruling on whether authorities can evict dozens of Palestinians – and give their homes to Jewish settlers – has further inflamed the situation.

 

Tens of thousands of worshippers had gathered on Friday for weekly prayers at the hilltop al-Aqsa mosque compound amid a heavy Israeli police presence. After nightfall, Palestinian men threw chairs, shoes and rocks at officers in riot gear, who fired grenades and rubber-coated bullets at the crowds.

 

 


An al-Aqsa official appealed for calm through the mosque’s loudspeakers. “Police must immediately stop firing stun grenades at worshippers, and the youth must calm down and be quiet.”

Al-Aqsa Mosque: Israeli police clash with Palestinians in Jerusalem

By the end of the night, the Palestine Red Crescent reported 88 people were hospitalised, many with wounds to their eyes and face from rubber bullets and grenade fragments. Smaller clashes broke out in other parts of Jerusalem.

 

Israeli police said at least 17 officers were wounded, half of them hospitalised, and a spokesperson promised to “respond with a heavy hand to all violent disturbances”.

 

Washington called for calm and said it was “deeply concerned”, while the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, called on the UN security council to hold an urgent session. Iran, Israel’s arch-enemy, described the clashes as an “attack on al-Aqsa mosque”.

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It was not clear what started the violence, which was especially intense. However, it was widely expected after near-nightly confrontations in the holy city and a series of killings in the occupied West Bank.

 

Last month, far-right Israeli groups and the Israeli police faced off with Palestinians, leading to dozens of injuries. At the time, militants in Gaza fired rockets into Israel.

 

 


Meanwhile, the past week has seen a series of killings in the West Bank. On Sunday, a drive-by shooting, later attributed by Israeli authorities to a Palestinian attacker, killed a 19-year-old Israeli. And late on Wednesday, Israeli troops killed a 16-year-old Palestinian near the city of Nablus in an incident that is being investigated. On Friday, police said troops had shot and killed two Palestinians after the men opened fire on a base in the occupied West Bank.

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This week, a leading Israeli rights group, B’Tselem, reported several attacks by Israeli settlers on Palestinians, including setting fire to fields near the village of Burin, south of Nablus.

 

Jerusalem has always been the centre of the Israeli-Palestinian crisis, with its holy sites revered by Jews and Muslims. The Old City’s Western Wall forms part of the holiest site in Judaism – the Temple Mount. It is equally part of the al-Haram al-Sharif, or the Noble Sanctuary, however, with the Dome of the Rock and al-Aqsa mosque above it. A period of intense Israeli-Palestinian violence, known as the second intifada, began in 2000 when the Israeli politician Ariel Sharon made a provocative visit to the site.

 

Further violence is predicted over the coming days. Sunday night is Laylat al-Qadr or the Night of Destiny, the most sacred during Ramadan. It also marks the start of Jerusalem Day, a national holiday in which hardline Israeli nationalists hold parades.

 

 


On Monday, Israel’s supreme court will decide whether to grant an appeal to Palestinians in Sheikh Jarrah who face losing their homes. Jewish families claim they were lost during a war that accompanied Israel’s creation in 1948, a conflict in which hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were displaced.

Al-Aqsa Mosque: Israeli police clash with Palestinians in Jerusalem

Israel captured East Jerusalem from Jordanian forces in a 1967 war and later annexed it. Under Israeli law, Jews who can prove pre-1948 title can claim back their Jerusalem properties. No similar law exists for Palestinians. The US and the EU have condemned the evictions.

 

Rupert Colville, the spokesperson for the UN high commissioner for human rights, demanded on Friday that Israel halt actions that “leads to a risk of forcible transfer”, which he said, “may amount to war crimes”.

 

Middle East Quartet expresses ‘deep concern’ over violence
Also, the four members of the Middle East Quartet — the US, Russia, the EU and the UN – have expressed “deep concern” over the violence in Jerusalem.

 

 


“We are alarmed by the provocative statements made by some political groups, as well as the launching of rockets and the resumption of incendiary balloons from Gaza towards Israel, and attacks on Palestinian farmland in the West Bank.” the envoys said in a statement on Saturday.

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“The Envoys noted with serious concern the possible evictions of Palestinian families from homes they have lived in for generations… and voice opposition to unilateral actions, which will only escalate the already tense environment.

 

“We call upon Israeli authorities to exercise restraint and to avoid measures that would further escalate the situation during this period of Muslim Holy Days.”

 

 

The Guardian/Aljazeera

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