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Violence Renews Near Iconic Holy Site in Old Jerusalem


A Palestinian demonstrator jumps over a burning barricade during an anti-Israel protest over tension in Jerusalem, near the Jewish settlement of Beit El near Ramallah, in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, May 9, 2021.

Fighting broke out again Monday between Israeli security forces and Palestinian worshippers near the al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem Monday.

Witnesses say security forces fired tear gas and stun grenades into the mosque, while worshippers threw stones and other projectiles at the Israeli forces. The Palestinian Red Crescent Society said more than 300 Palestinians were injured, including 228 who were taken to nearby hospitals.

Dozens of Palestinians were wounded in violent confrontations with police in Jerusalem from Saturday night into Sunday, when Muslims marked Laylat al-Qadr, or the “night of destiny,” the holiest period of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan.

The skirmishes occurred at the gates of the al-Aqsa Mosque compound in the Old City, a site known to Jews as the Temple Mount and to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary, considered the holiest site in Judaism and the third holiest in Islam.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday that authorities “will not allow any extremists to destabilize the calm,” after several days of clashes between Palestinian protesters and Israel police outside the Old City of Jerusalem.

The Israeli leader told a Cabinet meeting that he had met with security officials and vowed to “enforce law and order decisively and responsibly.”

He said Israel “will continue to maintain freedom of worship for all faiths, but we will not allow violent disturbances.”

Palestinians evacuate a wounded protester during clashes with Israeli security forces at the Lions Gate in Jerusalem's Old City, May 10, 2021.
Palestinians evacuate a wounded protester during clashes with Israeli security forces at the Lions Gate in Jerusalem's Old City, May 10, 2021.

Monday’s clashes occurred hours before the annual Jerusalem Day parade, a flag-waving display that marks Israeli claims to all of Jerusalem. The parade will pass through Jerusalem’s Old City, part of east Jerusalem, which was captured and annexed by Israel in the 1967 Mideast war.

But Israeli authorities have temporarily banned Jewish visitors from visiting the holy site in light of the hostilities.

The annual event, viewed by some as provocative, is occurring at a particularly volatile time.

A hearing in a court case over the planned evictions of several Palestinian families from a neighborhood in East Jerusalem has been delayed as Palestinian families sought the legal opinion from Israel’s attorney general.

A lower court had found in favor of the claim by Jewish settlers to land where the Palestinian homes are located. The Israeli Supreme Court had been expected to hear appeals on Monday but agreed to hear from the attorney general, who may argue against the evictions, Reuters reported. A spokesman for the attorney general said a new hearing will be scheduled within 30 days.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said last week he “held [Israel] responsible for the dangerous developments and sinful attacks taking place in the holy city” and called on the United Nations Security Council to hold an urgent session on the issue.

The president of the U.N. Security Council has scheduled a private discussion for Monday on the rising tensions in east Jerusalem around al-Aqsa. The United Nations has called on Israel to halt the evictions of Palestinians in east Jerusalem.

In a tweet, the Israeli Foreign Affairs Ministry accused the Palestinians of using the threatened evictions to incite violence.

Separately, the Islamic militant group Hamas has warned of retribution if the evictions go forward.

U.S. national security adviser Jake Sullivan spoke Sunday to his Israeli counterpart, Meir Ben-Shabbat, “to express the United States’ serious concerns about the situation in Jerusalem” as well as concerns about the potential evictions of Palestinian families. Sullivan said the U.S. is committed to Israel’s security and to peace and stability in the Middle East, according to a White House statement.

Israel considers all of Jerusalem as its unified capital. The Palestinians want east Jerusalem to be the capital of a future state.