Over 200 injured as Israeli police and Palestinians clash
Israeli police fired rubber bullets and stun grenades towards rock-hurling Palestinian youth at Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa Mosque on Friday amid growing anger over the potential eviction of Palestinians from homes on land claimed by Jewish settlers.
Afghan Voice Agency (AVA)_Reuters reported at least 205 Palestinians and 17 officers were injured in the night-time clashes at Islam’s third-holiest site and around East Jerusalem, Palestinian medics and said, as thousands of Palestinians faced off with several hundred Israeli police in riot gear.
Tension has mounted in Jerusalem and the occupied West Bank during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, with nightly clashes in East Jerusalem’s Sheikh Jarrah – a neighbourhood where numerous Palestinian families face eviction in a long-running legal case.
Calls for calm and restraint poured in on Friday from the United States and the United Nations, with others including the European Union and Jordan voicing alarm at the possible evictions, Reuters reported.
Tens of thousands of Palestinians packed into the hilltop compound surrounding the mosque earlier on Friday for prayers. Many stayed on to protest against the evictions in the city at the core of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
But following the evening meal that breaks the Ramadan fast, clashes broke out at -Aqsa with smaller scuffles near Sheikh Jarrah, which sits near the walled Old City’s famous Gate.
Reuters reported police used water cannons mounted on armoured vehicles to disperse several hundred protesters gathered near the homes of families facing potential eviction.
“If we don’t stand with this group of people here, (evictions) will (come) to my house, her house, his house and to every Palestinian who lives here,” said protester Bashar Mahmoud, 23, from the nearby Palestinian neighbourhood of Issawiya.
An Aqsa official appealed for calm on the compound through the mosque’s loudspeakers. “Police must immediately stop firing stun grenades at worshippers, and the youth must calm down and be quiet!”
Israel’s Supreme Court will hold a hearing on the Sheikh Jarrah evictions on Monday, the same day that Israel marks Jerusalem Day – its annual celebration of its capture of East Jerusalem during the 1967 Middle East war.
The Palestine Red Crescent ambulance service said 108 of the Palestinians injured were taken to hospital, with many hit with rubber-coated metal bullets.
Reuters reported a police spokeswoman said Palestinians had thrown rocks, fireworks and other objects towards officers, with about half of the 17 injured requiring medical treatment in hospital.