Scores injured in second night of Jerusalem clashes

Clashes have erupted for a second night between Palestinians and Israeli police outside the Old City of Jerusalem as tens of thousands of Muslim worshippers prayed at the nearby al-Aqsa Mosque.

At least 80 people were injured, including a one-year-old, and 14 were taken to hospital, the Palestine Red Crescent said. Israeli police said at least one officer was hurt.

Islamic authorities estimated 90,000 people had gathered for nighttime prayers at the al-Aqsa mosque, the third-holiest site in Islam.

The fresh violence came a day after more than 200 people were wounded in fighting around the mosque, prompting international calls for an end to the conflict.

Tensions in Jerusalem have soared recently, with Palestinians 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.

Police defended their actions after dispersing the protest in the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood, where demonstrators had thrown stones at security forces. Earlier, police had blocked busloads of pilgrims headed to Jerusalem to worship.

Palestinian medics said 80 Palestinians were wounded on Saturday night, mostly by rubber bullets, stun grenades or beatings, among them a woman whose face was bloodied.

Police chief Koby Shabtai said he had deployed more police in Jerusalem following Friday night’s clashes, which left 18 police officers wounded. 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,” Shabtai said.

Palestinians assist a wounded man amid clashes with Israeli security forces outside the Damascus Gate in Jerusalem’s Old City .
Palestinians assist a wounded man amid clashes with Israeli security forces outside the Damascus Gate in Jerusalem’s Old City . Photograph: Emmanuel Dunand/AFP/Getty Images

On the border with Gaza, troops fired teargas toward Palestinian protesters, as officials said three incendiary balloons were launched into Israel, causing fires but no injuries.

On Friday, riot police stormed al-Aqsa mosque compound after they said Palestinians threw rocks and fireworks at officers. Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu defended the police actions.

“Israel is acting responsibly to ensure respect for law and order in Jerusalem while allowing freedom of worship,” he said in a meeting of security officials.

The violence was the worst in years at al-Aqsa, Islam’s third-holiest site after Mecca and Medina. Jerusalem has long 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.

Palestinians have held nightly protests in Sheikh Jarrah against an attempt by Israeli settlers to take over Arab homes. On Saturday, protesters chanted, waved Palestinian flags and threw stones before police moved in.

Dozens of Arab Israeli protesters also gathered across Israel in solidarity with Sheikh Jarrah residents, holding up signs that read “the occupation is terrorism”.

A reporter for Israeli public TV tweeted footage of a Jewish driver whose car was attacked with stones and windows shattered at the entrance to Sheikh Jarrah Saturday.

The Islamist movement Hamas, which rules Gaza, urged Palestinians to remain at al-Aqsa until Ramadan ends, warning that “the resistance is ready to defend al-Aqsa at any cost”.

Palestinian protesters hurl stones at Israeli security forces amid clashes in Jerusalem’s Old City on the night of Laylat al-Qadr.
Palestinian protesters hurl stones at Israeli security forces amid clashes in Jerusalem’s Old City. Photograph: Emmanuel Dunand/AFP/Getty Images

The Quartet of envoys from the European Union, Russia, US and the United Nations expressed “deep concern” over the violence. “We call upon Israeli authorities to exercise restraint,” they wrote.

The United States – an Israeli ally whose tone has toughened under president Joe Biden – said it was “extremely concerned” and urged both sides to “avoid steps that exacerbate tensions or take us farther away from peace”.

“This includes evictions in east Jerusalem, settlement activity, home demolitions and acts of terrorism,” the State Department said.

The European Union called on the authorities “to act urgently to de-escalate the current tensions,” saying “violence and incitement are unacceptable and the perpetrators on all sides must be held accountable”.

Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas said he held the Israeli government responsible for the unrest and voiced “full support for our heroes in al-Aqsa”.

Yair Lapid, an Israeli politician attempting to form a coalition government to replace Netanyahu, backed the police. “The state of Israel will not let violence run loose and definitely will not allow terror groups to threaten it,” he tweeted.

The al-Aqsa clashes drew sharp rebukes across the Arab and Muslim world.

Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, denounced Israel as a “cruel terrorist state” in a speech in Ankara on Saturday, calling on the United Nations to intervene to “stop the persecution”.

Jordan condemned Israel’s “barbaric attack” and Egypt, Turkey, Tunisia, Pakistan and Qatar were among Muslim countries that criticised Israeli forces for the confrontation.

Israel also drew criticism from Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates, two countries that signed normalisation accords with the Jewish state last year.

Iran called on the UN to condemn the Israeli police actions, calling the actions of Isreali police a “war crime”.

Israel’s supreme court is to hold a new hearing in the Sheikh Jarrah case on Monday, when Israelis mark Jerusalem Day to celebrate the “liberation” of the city.

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