More than 300 people were wounded Monday in renewed clashes between Palestinians and Israeli police in Jerusalem, Palestinian medics said, as an Israeli celebration of its 1967 takeover of the holy city threatened to further inflame tensions.
Palestinians hurled rocks at Israeli officers in riot gear who fired rubber bullets, stun grenades and tear gas on the esplanade of the revered Al-Aqsa mosque, an AFP correspondent at the scene said, following a night of sporadic clashes.
Why The Clash?
Loud booms and angry screams echoed from the ancient stone walls of the compound, revered by both Jews and Muslims, where tear gas filled the air and the ground was littered with rocks, stun grenade fragments and other debris.
The violence was the latest in days of the worst such disturbances in Jerusalem since 2017, fuelled by a long-running bid by Jewish settlers to take over nearby Palestinian homes in Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem.
Despite mounting international condemnation, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he supported the Israeli police force’s “just struggle” amid the Jerusalem clashes.
“We insist on guaranteeing the (religious) rights of all, and this from time to time requires the stability and steadfastness that the Israeli police and our security forces are currently displaying,” he said.
Police said Jewish “prayers continue as usual” at the Wailing Wall, which adjoins the esplanade, adding that “we will not let extremists threaten the safety of the public”.
The UN Security Council was to meet at Tunisia’s request later Monday on the unrest that has escalated since the last Friday prayers of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan.
A key court hearing scheduled for Monday on Sheikh Jarrah, the flashpoint east Jerusalem neighbourhood at the centre of the property dispute, has meanwhile been postponed.
There were fears of further violence ahead of a planned march Monday by Israelis to commemorate the takeover of Jerusalem in the 1967 Six-Day War, an anniversary known as “Jerusalem Day” in the Jewish state.
Israeli police had, as of Sunday, approved the march, which was re-scheduled to start around 5:00 pm (1400 GMT).
The Palestinian Red Crescent put the toll at 305 injured, including more than 200 who were hospitalised, five of them in critical condition.