Hundreds hurt in East Jerusalem weekend unrest

2021-05-09 14:40:36 GMT2021-05-09 22:40:36(Beijing Time) Sina English


Palestinian protesters hurl stones at Israeli security forces amid clashes in Jerusalem's Old City on Saturday.

Tensions ran high on Sunday in annexed east Jerusalem after hundreds of Palestinians were wounded in a weekend of clashes between protesters and Israeli security forces, sparking global concern that the unrest could spread further.

The violence around Jerusalem’s revered al-Aqsa mosque compound and the Old City, mostly at night, is the worst since 2017, fueled by a years-long bid by Jewish settlers to take over Palestinian homes in east Jerusalem.

Speaking ahead of a weekly cabinet meeting, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned his country “would decisively and responsibly impose law and order in Jerusalem,” while preserving “freedom of worship for all religious.”

Some 121 Palestinians were wounded in Saturday’s overnight clashes, many hit by rubber bullets and stun grenades, the Palestinian Red Crescent said.

Israeli police said 17 of its officers were wounded.

The previous night more than 220 people, mostly Palestinians, were hurt after Israeli police stormed al-Aqsa after they said Palestinians threw rocks and fireworks at officers.

Four Arab countries that have normalized ties with Israel — the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Morocco and Sudan — all condemned the Israeli actions at al-Aqsa, voicing support for Palestinian demonstrators.

Khartoum labeled Israeli measures in Jerusalem against Palestinians as “repression,” while Abu Dhabi urged Israeli authorities to “take responsibility for de-escalation.”

On Saturday night, thousands of Palestinians packed al-Aqsa mosque compound, Islam’s third holiest site which Jews revere as the Temple Mount, to hold special Ramadan prayers.

Israeli police set up roadblocks saying it wanted to limit access to the Old City and avoid “violent riots,” effectively preventing hundreds more from joining the prayers.

A bus heading to east Jerusalem was stopped and some Palestinians detained for questioning by police, a local reporter said, while hundreds of Palestinians marched on highways to the Holy City.

“They want to stop us from going to al-Aqsa,” said Ali al-Komani, 40, outside the site.

Saturday’s Laylat al-Qadr (Night of Destiny) was a peak of the holy fasting month, believed to be the night when the Koran was revealed to the Prophet Mohammed.

The prayers at al-Aqsa were held peacefully, but violence flared elsewhere in east Jerusalem, in the West Bank and on the border between the blockaded Gaza Strip and Israel.

Israeli mounted police deployed outside Damascus Gate, a key access point to the Old City of Jerusalem, as agents fired stun grenades to disperse Palestinian protesters.

Palestinians pelted riot police with stones and set fire to a makeshift barricade, and a woman with a bloody face was escorted away from the scene by a rescuer, reporters said.

The violence has sparked international calls for calm, as Israel defended its actions.

Pope Francis called for calm: “Violence only generates violence. Let’s stop these clashes.”

The Middle East Quartet of envoys from the European Union, Russia, the United States and the United Nations expressed “deep concern” and called for restraint.

Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas voiced “full support for our heroes in Al-Aqsa,” and his rivals in the Islamist movement Hamas warned that “the resistance is ready to defend Al-Aqsa at any cost.”