Israeli police clashed with Palestinians for a second Friday night in occupied East Jerusalem, amid mounting tensions over the ban on gatherings and anger fueled by posted videos of attacks.
The new violence came after clashes on Thursday night, in which the Palestinian Red Crescent reported at least 105 injured, about 20 of whom were transferred to hospital, while Israel police said 20 policemen had been injured.
Police on Thursday barred access to some areas where Palestinians usually congregate in large numbers during the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan – sparking clashes outside one of the entrances to the old walled city.
Tensions were fueled by the arrival of far-right Israeli Jewish groups at the end of a march in which they harassed Palestinians and chanted “death to the Arabs.”
After the calm during the day on Friday, skirmishes broke out again as thousands of Muslim worshipers left the grounds of Al-Aqsa Mosque after evening prayers, when they found themselves confronted with dozens of armed police, including officers on horseback.
Clashes erupted between worshipers and police, with water bottles thrown at police officers who fired stun grenades to disperse the crowd.
Hundreds of Palestinians also gathered at the Qalandiya crossing point between Jerusalem and the occupied West Bank city of Ramallah on Friday, police said.
In Bethlehem, also in the West Bank, Palestinians threw stones and petrol bombs at the tomb of biblical matriarch Rachel, a shrine worshiped by Jews and Muslims, they added.
There has been nighttime unrest in the area since the start of Ramadan on April 13, with Palestinians outraged by police blocking access to the Promenade Around the Walls, a popular gathering place after the Ramadan fast ended during the day.
Later on Friday, the IDF said at least 10 rockets had been fired from the Gaza Strip into southern Israel until the wee hours of the morning – the most in a night since the start of the year .
Some were intercepted by Israel’s Iron Dome air defense system and others were shot down as sirens blared in neighboring villages.
In response, Palestinian witnesses and security sources told AFP that Israeli tanks shelled the Gaza Strip.
The army said it hit a military post owned by Hamas.
– Maryam Al-Barghouti (@MariamBarghouti) April 23, 2021
“ Extremist ” Jewish groups
The United States, an ally of Israel, which under President Joe Biden urged increased rights for Palestinians, said on Friday it was “deeply concerned” by the escalation of violence in Jerusalem.
“The rhetoric of extremist protesters chanting hateful and violent slogans must be firmly rejected,” State Department spokesman Ned Price wrote on Twitter.
The European Union and the United Nations have also called for restraint.
Jordan condemned “provocations” carried out by “extremist” Jewish groups, calling on Israel to prevent such incidents and to lift restrictions on access to the Al-Aqsa Mosque.
The Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of Hamas, have expressed support for the Palestinians in East Jerusalem.
“The spark you ignite today will be the fuse of the coming explosion in the face of the enemy,” he said in a statement.
Tensions have been high in the holy city of Flashpoint after a series of videos posted online in recent days showing young Arabs attacking ultra-Orthodox Jews and extremist Jewish groups taking to the streets to intimidate Arabs during the campaign. night clashes.
Police said after nightly prayers at Al-Aqsa Mosque on Thursday, “hundreds of rioters began violently disrupting order, including throwing stones and objects at the forces.”
Stun grenades were fired and water cannons deployed to disperse the “rioters” and force them towards less central areas of East Jerusalem, they said.
“It was like a war zone; it was dangerous, ”a Palestinian close to the clashes outside the old city told AFP. “That’s why I left the place.”
Meanwhile, Israeli far-right group Lehava had organized a march to protest the anti-Jewish violence in which hundreds participated and which ended in front of the Old City.
The police erected barriers to prevent them from entering this predominantly Arab place.
Videos on social media showed Palestinians attacking ultra-Orthodox Jews in the early hours of Friday, with reports of Israeli vehicles being stoned in and near East Jerusalem.
Speaking to the public broadcaster Kan, the mayor of Jerusalem, Moshe Lion, said he was in talks with the leaders of the Palestinian neighborhoods in East Jerusalem “to put an end to this unnecessary violence”.
Lion said he tried to call off Lehava’s march, but police told him it was legal, and noted that “dozens” of Jews who attacked Arabs had been arrested over the past two years. last few weeks.
But the Palestinian presidency condemned “the growing incitement by far-right extremist Israeli settler groups to murder Arabs, which in recent days has manifested itself in a wave of attacks on Palestinian civilians in the old city”.
And a statement Thursday night on the official Palestinian news agency Wafa urged the international community to protect Palestinians from attacks, which it said were encouraged by the Israeli government.