Tensions are high in Jerusalem, following clashes between Israeli police and Palestinian protesters outside the Al-Aqsa mosque, in one of the city’s most sensitive areas. Over 150 people were injured in the violence.
Palestinian anger has been fueled by possible evictions in mainly-Arab East Jerusalem to make room for Jewish settlers. A court decision is expected in the coming days, with fears of more unrest. Palestinian protesters took aim at Israeli police, hurling stones, bottles and fireworks. Officers in riot gear responded with a show of force.
Dozens of protesters sustained injuries – many to the face and eyes – from rubber-coated bullets and shrapnel from stun grenades. With nearby emergency rooms filling up fast – the Palestinian Red Crescent set up a field hospital to treat the wounded. The violence at one of Islam’s most revered sites erupted after the final Friday prayer of Ramadan.
Tens of thousands of Palestinian worshippers earlier packed the mosque on the final Friday of Ramadan and many stayed to protest
Throughout the Muslim holy month, anger has been building over a bid by Jewish settlers to evict Palestinians from their homes in East Jerusalem. The court case was the focus of Friday’s sermon at the Al Aqsa mosque – and many worshippers stayed on to protest.
Israel’s Supreme Court will hold a hearing on the Sheikh Jarrah evictions on Monday. Israelis and Palestinians are bracing for more violence in the coming days.
Sunday night is “Laylat al-Qadr” or the “Night of Destiny”, the most sacred in the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. Worshippers will gather for intense nighttime prayers at the Al-Aqsa mosque compound in Jerusalem’s Old City.
They were backed by international calls for calm and restraint. The UN warned Israel would be violating international law if it approved the evictions.
Israel’s Supreme Court is expected to rule on the evictions on Monday. Both sides are bracing for more violence,
because on that same day, Israel will be marking Jerusalem Day – an annual celebration of its annexation of East Jerusalem in 1967.
But following the evening meal that breaks the Ramazan fast, clashes broke out at Al Aqsa with smaller scuffles near Sheikh Jarrah, which sits near the walled Old City’s famous Damascus Gate.
Police used water cannon 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 neighborhood of Issawiya.