Israeli police arrest dozens in night of chaos in Jerusalem

Israeli police arrest dozens and 20 police officers are wounded in night of chaos in Jerusalem

  • Friday was the second night of clashes between Palestinians and Israeli police
  • Officials said 44 people were arrested and 20 officers were wounded in clashes
  • Forces separately clashed with Palestinians and right-win Jewish extremists
  • A ban on gatherings during Ramadan and videos of attacks online led to anger 
  • Tensions have spiked in recent days in Jerusalem, which has long been a flashpoint in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and is home to multiple holy sites
  • In what seemed a retaliation for the incidents in Jerusalem, Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip fired three rockets toward Israel late Friday 

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

Officials said 44 people were arrested and 20 officers were wounded in a night of chaos in the holy city, where security forces separately clashed with Palestinians and groups of Jewish extremists who held an anti-Arab march nearby.

Tensions have spiked in recent days in Jerusalem, which has long been a flashpoint in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and is home to holy sites sacred to Jews, Christians and Muslims. 

Residents braced for possible further unrest as police stepped up security and the U.S. Embassy appealed for calm.

In what seemed a retaliation for the incidents in Jerusalem, Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip fired three rockets toward Israel late Friday. 

Israeli security forces disperse Palestinian protesters outside the Damascus Gate in Jerusalem’s Old City on April 23, 2021, amid tensions following yesterday’s clashes between Palestinians and far-right Jews. Israeli police say 44 people were arrested and 20 officers were wounded in a night of chaos in Jerusalem

Israeli security forces on horseback disperse Palestinian protesters outside the Damascus Gate in Jerusalem’s Old City on April 23, 2021. Tensions have spiked in recent days in Jerusalem, which has long been a flashpoint in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict

Jerusalem is home to holy sites sacred to Jews, Christians and Muslims. Israeli police officers walk during clashes with Palestinian protesters, as the Muslim holy fasting month of Ramadan continues, in Jerusalem, April 23, 2021

Residents braced for possible further unrest as police stepped up security and the U.S. Embassy appealed for calm. Pictured: A fire burns in a dumpster as Israeli security forces disperse Palestinian protesters at the Damascus Gate in Jerusalem’s Old City on April 23

The Israeli military said two rockets fell near Gaza frontier and the third was intercepted by Israeli air defenses. 

No Palestinian group claimed responsibility for the attack, which came hours after Hamas’ armed wing warned Israel ‘not to test’ its patience.

There were concerns the violence could reignite following Friday prayers at a major holy site in Jerusalem, but thousands of worshippers dispersed peacefully after Muslim religious leaders called for restraint. 

The Islamic militant group Hamas meanwhile staged demonstrations across Gaza reiterating its support for armed struggle.

Palestinians have clashed with Israeli police on a nightly basis since the start of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. 

The tensions began when police placed barricades outside the Old City’s Damascus Gate, where Muslims traditionally gather to enjoy the evening after the daytime fast.

In what seemed a retaliation for the incidents in Jerusalem, Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip fired three rockets toward Israel late Friday. Pictured: A Palestinian protester runs from Israeli security forces outside the Damascus Gate in Jerusalem’s Old City on April 23, 2021

Pictured: Israeli security forces deploy in Jerusalem’s Old City on April 23, 2021, amid tensions following yesterday’s clashes between Palestinians and far-right Jews. The Israeli military said two rockets fell near Gaza frontier and the third was intercepted by Israeli air defenses

Pictured: A Palestinian protesters sits on the ground during clashes with Israeli police, as the Muslim holy fasting month of Ramadan continues, in Jerusalem, April 23, 2021. After calm during daylight hours on Friday, scuffles broke out again as thousands of Muslim worshippers left Al-Aqsa Mosque compound after evening prayers

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. An Israeli police officer aims during clashes with Palestinian protesters, as the Muslim holy fasting month of Ramadan continues, in Jerusalem, April 23

Clashes broke out between worshippers and police, with water bottles hurled at officers who fired stun grenades to disperse the crowd. Pictured: Israeli security forces detain a Palestinian protester outside the Damascus Gate in Jerusalem’s Old City on April 23, 2021

Late Thursday, hundreds of Palestinians hurled stones and bottles at police, who fired a water cannon and stun grenades to disperse them. Dozens of Palestinians were wounded in the melee.

Meanwhile, a far-right Jewish group known as Lahava led a march of hundreds of protesters chanting ‘Arabs get out!’ toward the Damascus Gate. 

The show of force came in response to videos circulated on TikTok showing Palestinians slapping religious Jews at random. Other videos made in response to them appear to show Jews assaulting 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. 

Police used metal barricades to halt the far-right protesters a few hundred meters from Damascus Gate. Later, they used water cannon, stun grenades and mounted police to push them back toward mostly Jewish west Jerusalem.

Videos circulated online showed smaller clashes and fires elsewhere in the city. One video showed what appeared to be a group of Palestinians beating an ultra-Orthodox Jew near Damascus Gate.

They could be seen punching, kicking and throwing him to the ground before police chased them off.

Palestinian protesters throw objects during clashes with Israeli police, as the Muslim holy fasting month of Ramadan continues, in Jerusalem, April 23, 2021

A Palestinian protester is detained during clashes with Israeli police, as the Muslim holy fasting month of Ramadan continues, in Jerusalem, April 23, 2021

Pictured: Israeli security forces detain a protester during clashes with Palestinian protesters in Jerusalem’s Old City on April 23, 2021

Israeli police officers walk during clashes with Palestinian protesters, as the Muslim holy fasting month of Ramadan continues, in Jerusalem, April 24, 2021

Israeli security forces deploy outside the Damascus Gate in Jerusalem’s Old City on April 23, 2021

The police statement did not specify whether those arrested were Palestinian or Jewish and did not refer to any specific instances of violence. The police did not immediately respond to a request for more details.

Israel captured east Jerusalem in the 1967 war and annexed it in a move not recognized by most of the international community. 

The Palestinians want east Jerusalem to be the capital of their future state. Its fate has been one of the most divisive issues in the peace process, which ground to a halt more than a decade ago.

The U.S. Embassy said it was ‘deeply concerned’ about the violence in recent days. ‘We hope all responsible voices will promote an end to incitement, a return to calm, and respect for the safety and dignity of everyone in Jerusalem,’ it said in a statement.

Tens of thousands of Palestinians attended weekly prayers at the Al-Aqsa mosque compound in Jerusalem’s Old City on Friday. The site is the third holiest in Islam and the holiest for Jews, who refer to it as the Temple Mount.

Sheikh Muhammad Hussein, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, condemned the ‘police and settlers’ attack on Palestinians in Jerusalem’ in his Friday sermon. 

Israeli security forces disperse Palestinian protesters outside the Damascus Gate in Jerusalem’s Old City on April 23, 2021

An Israeli police officer aims during clashes with Palestinian protesters, as the Muslim holy fasting month of Ramadan continues, in Jerusalem, April 23, 2021

But he called on worshippers to remain calm and not to give the other side an excuse to storm the compound. They dispersed peacefully after prayers and there were no immediate reports of unrest.

The sprawling hilltop compound has seen clashes on a number of occasions over the years and was the epicenter of the 2000 Palestinian intifada, or uprising.

The Palestinian militant group Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip, meanwhile staged dozens of protests across the territory expressing solidarity with Muslim worshippers in Jerusalem.

Addressing the protesters, senior Hamas leader Mahmoud Zahar condemned the decision of some Arab states to normalize relations with Israel last year and lashed out at the Palestinian Authority in the occupied West Bank for continuing its security coordination with Israel.

‘After a long series of protests and demonstrations, we have reached the conclusion that without weapons, we cannot liberate our land, protect our holy sites, bringing back our people to their land or maintain our dignity,’ he said. 

Streets are set ablaze as members of the Israeli security forces deploy during clashes with Palestinian protesters outside the Damascus Gate in Jerusalem’s Old City on April 22, 202

The United States, Israel’s ally which under President Joe Biden has encouraged greater rights for Palestinians, said it was ‘deeply concerned’ by the escalation in violence in the flashpoint holy city.

‘The rhetoric of extremist protestors chanting hateful and violent slogans must be firmly rejected,’ State Department spokesman Ned Price wrote on Twitter.

The European Union and United Nations also appealed for restraint. 

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.

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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