Cartoon by Fadi Abou Hassan
Scores injured in fresh night of Jerusalem clashes
The Guardian: Fresh clashes have erupted between Palestinians and Israeli police outside the Old City of Jerusalem, extending some of the city’s worst unrest in years, as a former Israeli defence official warned of an atmosphere like a powder keg ready to explode at any time.
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 night-time prayers at the holy city’s al-Aqsa mosque, the third-holiest site in Islam.
Saturday’s night fresh violence came a day after more than 200 people were wounded in fighting around the mosque, prompting international calls for calm.
Tensions in Jerusalem have soared in recent days, ahead of an expected Israeli court ruling on Monday on whether authorities can evict dozens of Palestinians from the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood and give their homes to Jewish settlers. Inflaming the situation, Israelis will mark Jerusalem Day on the same day, celebrating the anniversary of when troops captured the city in 1967, including its majority-Arab neighbourhoods.
Amos Gilad, an ex-head of military intelligence and former top defence ministry official, said the parade should be cancelled or rerouted. “The powder keg is burning and can explode at any time,” he told Army Radio.
Palestinians have also complained of oppressive restrictions on gatherings during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
Police defended their actions after dispersing a protest in Sheikh Jarrah on Saturday night, where demonstrators had thrown stones at security forces. Earlier, ahead of Laylat al-Qadr, considered to be the holiest night during Ramadan, police had blocked busloads of pilgrims headed to Jerusalem to worship.
Palestinian medics said 80 Palestinians were wounded, 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 officers in Jerusalem following Friday night’s clashes, which left 18 police 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.
On the frontier with Gaza, troops fired teargas towards Palestinian protesters, as officials said three incendiary balloons were launched into Israel, causing fires but no injuries.
On Friday, riot police stormed the al-Aqsa mosque compound after they said Palestinians threw rocks and fireworks at officers.
The 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 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 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 on 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” >>>