Israel braced for more protests on Saturday after violence at East Jerusalem’s flashpoint Al-Aqsa mosque compound wounded more than 200 people as the international community called for calm after days of escalating tensions.
Israeli police fired rubber-coated metal bullets and stun grenades towards rock-hurling Palestinians at Al-Aqsa as anger grows over the potential eviction of Palestinians from homes on land claimed by Jewish settlers in East Jerusalem.
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 Israeli police said, as thousands of Palestinians faced off with several hundred Israeli police in riot gear.
Violence erupted on Friday when Israeli police deployed heavily as Muslims were performing evening prayers at Al-Aqsa during the holy month of Ramadan.
Right now in Sheikh Jarrah: settlers are walking around armed while no Palestinians are allowed in. LOOK AND LOOK AGAIN.— mohammed el-kurd (@m7mdkurd) May 7, 2021
What if they massacre us?! Our families are terrified. Who’s to save us?! pic.twitter.com/tic35KCFfN
Video footage from the scene shows worshippers throwing chairs, shoes and rocks towards the police and officers opening fire. Israeli police also closed gates leading to Al-Aqsa inside the walled Old City.
The Palestine Red Crescent ambulance service said one of the injured lost an eye, two suffered serious head wounds, and two had their jaws fractured. Most were wounded in the face and eyes by rubber-coated rounds and shrapnel from stun grenades.
Despite having no right to E Jerusalem, Israel nonetheless is carrying out an ethnic cleansing campaign in the city. The latest is an effort to evict Palestinian families from #SheikhJarrah & hand their homes to settlers. & this isn’t the 1st time:— BAYAN❖🧈 free palestine (@billiewheein) May 8, 2021
An Al-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.”
Tens of thousands of Palestinian worshippers earlier packed into the mosque on the final Friday of Ramadan, and many stayed on to protest in support of Palestinians facing eviction from their homes on Israeli-occupied land claimed by Jewish settlers in the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood of East Jerusalem.
Calls for calm and restraint poured in from the United States and the United Nations, with others including the European Union and Jordan voicing alarm at the possible evictions.
“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.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said he “held [Israel] responsible for the dangerous developments and sinful attacks taking place in the holy city”, and called on the UN Security Council to hold an urgent session on the issue.
Abbas praised the “courageous stand” of the protesters.
Hoy todo el mundo debería ver lo que está haciendo la ocupación sionista en Jerusalén en la mezquita de #AlAqsa y el barrio de #SheikhJarrah y hablar y defender a las vidas de lo palestinos.🇵🇸🇵🇸🇵🇸#PalestiniansLivesMatter #salvaSheikhJarrah #SaveSheikhJarrah #spain #español pic.twitter.com/0q7PZsDXM5— Blue Star (@MiqdadiT) May 8, 2021
Protest groups affiliated with Hamas, rulers of the Gaza Strip, said they would resume demonstrations and the launching of incendiary balloons along the heavily guarded Gaza frontier. Hamas has largely curtailed such actions over the past two years as part of an informal ceasefire that now appears to be fraying.
In an interview with a Hamas-run TV station, the group’s top leader Ismail Haniyeh addressed Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu by name, warning him not to “play with fire”.
“Neither you nor your army and police can win this battle,” he said. “What’s happening in Jerusalem is an intifada that must not stop.”
Sheikh Jarrah’s residents are overwhelmingly Palestinian, but the neighbourhood also contains a site revered by religious Jews as the tomb of an ancient high priest, Simeon the Just.
The spokesman for the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights said the evictions, “if ordered and implemented, would violate Israel’s obligations under international law” on East Jerusalem territory it captured and occupied in the 1967 Middle East war.
World Opinions News – agencies