JERUSALEM (AP) – Palestinian worshipers clashed with Israeli police on Friday evening at the grounds of the Al-Aqsa Mosque, a major holy site for Muslims and Jews, in an escalation of weeks of violence in Jerusalem that reverberated throughout the region.
The Palestinian Red Crescent emergency service said 136 people were injured in clashes with police there and elsewhere in Jerusalem, including 83 hospitalized. He says most were injured in the face and eyes from rubber-coated bullets and stun grenade shards. Israel said six police officers were injured.
Earlier on Friday, Israeli troops shot and killed two Palestinians and injured a third after the men opened fire on a base belonging to the Israeli paramilitary border police in the occupied West Bank, the latest in a series of attacks. Deadly clashes in recent weeks which coincided with the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. Further troubles seem likely next week.
Tensions have soared in recent weeks in East Jerusalem, which both Israel and the Palestinians claim. At the start of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, Israel blocked off a popular gathering place where Palestinians traditionally socialize at the end of their one-day fast. The move sparked two weeks of clashes before Israel lifted restrictions.
But in recent days, clashes have resumed over Israel’s threat of eviction of dozens of Palestinians in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of East Jerusalem, who have been embroiled in a protracted legal battle with Israeli settlers trying to ‘acquire properties in the neighborhood.
The United States said it was “deeply concerned” by the heightened tensions and called on all parties to work to defuse them. He also expressed concern about threats of evictions.
“It is essential to avoid unilateral measures that would exacerbate tensions or take us further away from peace. And that would include evictions, settlement activity and house demolitions, ”US State Department spokeswoman Jalina Porter told reporters in Washington.
The compound of Al-Aqsa Mosque is the third holiest site in Islam. The site is also the holiest site of the Jews, who call it the Temple Mount and worship it as the location of the Biblical Temples. It has long been a flashpoint for Israeli-Palestinian violence and was the epicenter of the 2000 Palestinian Intifada, or uprising.
Israeli police deployed in large numbers as Muslim worshipers held evening prayers at the site. It is not known what triggered the violence, but videos posted online show worshipers throwing chairs, shoes and stones at police, who fired stun grenades and rubber-coated bullets to disperse them. Smaller clashes erupted elsewhere in Jerusalem.
Israeli police said protesters threw stones, fireworks and other objects at them, injuring six policemen who required medical attention. “We will respond with a heavy hand to all violent disturbances, riots and attacks against our forces,” he said in a statement.
Previously, some 70,000 worshipers had attended the last Friday prayers of Ramadan at Al-Aqsa, said the Islamic Endowment which oversees the site. Thousands of people subsequently protested, waving the green flags of the Islamic militant group Hamas and chanting pro-Hamas slogans.
Neighboring Jordan, which serves as the guardian of Muslim holy sites in Jerusalem, had previously warned Israel against further “provocative” measures, while Iran, Israel’s nemesis, encouraged violence.
During the attack on Friday morning, Israeli police said three assailants fired at the base near the northern West Bank city of Jenin. Border police and an Israeli soldier retaliated, killing two of the men and injuring the third, who was evacuated to a hospital.
Israelis and Palestinians are bracing for more violence in the days to come.
Sunday evening is “Laylat al-Qadr” or “Night of Fate”, the holiest of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. Worshipers will gather for intense nightly prayers in the grounds of the Al-Aqsa Mosque in the Old City of Jerusalem.
Sunday evening is also the start of Jerusalem Day, a national holiday during which Israel celebrates its annexation of East Jerusalem and religious nationalists hold parades and other celebrations in the city. On Monday, an Israeli court is expected to deliver a verdict on the deportations.
Iran marked its own Quds Day, or Jerusalem, on Friday. The national holiday typically includes anti-Israel protests and fiery speeches from Iranian leaders predicting Israel’s demise.
“The downward and downward movement of the Zionist regime has started and will not stop,” Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said in a televised speech. He called for the continuation of armed “resistance” in the Palestinian territories and urged Muslim nations to support it.
This year, Ramadan coincided with an upsurge in Israeli-Palestinian violence centered on Jerusalem.
On Thursday, Israeli forces arrested a Palestinian suspected of carrying out a drive-by shootout earlier this week in the West Bank that killed one Israeli and injured two others.. The day before, Israeli troops shot and killed a 16-year-old Palestinian near the West Bank city of Nablus. The military said several Palestinians threw firebombs at the soldiers.
Israel seized East Jerusalem, as well as the West Bank and Gaza – territories the Palestinians want for their future state – during the Middle East War of 1967. Israel annexed East Jerusalem in a move no internationally recognized and considers the entire city as its capital.
Palestinians regard East Jerusalem – which includes major holy sites for Jews, Christians and Muslims – as their capital, and its fate is one of the conflict’s most sensitive issues. In an appeal on Palestinian television, President Mahmoud Abbas praised the “courageous stand” of the protesters and said Israel bears full responsibility for the violence.
Israel’s foreign ministry had previously accused the Palestinians of seizing on threats of evictions, which it called “a real estate dispute between private parties”, in order to incite violence.
“The Palestinian Authority and Palestinian terrorist groups will bear full responsibility for the violence emanating from their actions. The Israeli police will ensure the maintenance of public order, ”he tweeted earlier today.
Neighboring Jordan, which made peace with Israel in 1994 and is the guardian of Al-Aqsa, said that “Israel’s continuation of its illegal practices and provocative measures” in the city is a “dangerous game.” “.
“Building and expanding settlements, confiscating land, demolishing homes and evicting Palestinians from their homes are illegal practices that perpetuate the occupation and undermine the chances of achieving a just and comprehensive peace, which is a regional and international necessity. Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman al. -Safadi tweeted.
The Islamic militant group Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip and opposes the existence of Israel, has pushed for violence, and Palestinian militants in Gaza have fired rockets to support the protesters.
Earlier this week, the shadowy commander of the armed wing of Hamas, Mohammed Deif, issued his first public statement in seven years, in which he warned Israel that it would pay a “heavy price.” if he expels the Palestinians from their homes.
Associated Press editors Fares Akram from Gaza City, Gaza Strip, and Amir Vahdat from Tehran, Iran, contributed to this report.