Another night of violence has left at least 90 Palestinians injured after Israeli police cracked down on protesters in front of the occupied East Jerusalem Old City as concerns about an escalation grew.
An estimated 90,000 Muslim worshipers prayed at the nearby Al-Aqsa Mosque on Holy Night of Laylat al-Qadr, or the “Night of Destiny,” the holiest of prayers during the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan.
Some stayed to protest Israeli plans to forcibly expel Palestinian families of their homes on land claimed by illegal Jewish settlers in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of East Jerusalem.
Israeli security forces on horseback and riot gear fired stun grenades and water cannons at Palestinians who in turn threw stones, lit fires and tore down police barricades in the streets leading to the walled gates of the Old City. .
Israeli security forces were on high alert Sunday, preparing for a new escalation ahead of what Israelis call Jerusalem Day. Many Israelis mark the day that East Jerusalem was occupied and later annexed in 1967 with marches throughout Jerusalem each year.
About 30,000 Jewish settlers are expected to take part in a march to the Damascus gate in the old city on Monday.
The door will be closed to Palestinians until 7:30 p.m. for “security reasons,” Israeli police said, adding 3,000 deployed forces.
On Sunday, Israeli police gave their approval to the annual Jerusalem Day parade, a flag-waving display of Israeli claims across the city. Police spokesman Eli Levi said there were no plans to call off the parade, despite increased friction and the potential for violence.
Amos Gilad, a former senior military official, told Army Radio that the march should be canceled or diverted from the Damascus gate in the Old City, saying that “the gunpowder is burning and may explode at any time “.
Israeli parade is often attended by Israeli nationalists and is widely perceived as provocative.
It will coincide with an expected decision by the Israeli Supreme Court on the fate of dozens of Palestinians fighting Israeli settlers’ attempts to evict them. their houses in Sheikh Jarrah.
The neighborhood has been the scene of periodic clashes, especially during Ramadan, between Palestinian residents and their supporters on the one hand, and Israeli police and ultranationalist Israeli activists on the other.
“Full support for our heroes”
Saturday’s violence came a day after Israeli forces stormed Al-Aqsa and fired rubber-coated bullets, tear gas and stun grenades at protesters, injuring more than 200 Palestinians.
An Israeli Arab NGO called on senior Israeli officials to order security forces to stop their “violent incursions” into the Al-Aqsa Mosque and refrain from using excessive force against Palestinian faithful and medical personnel.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said he blamed the Israeli government for the riots and expressed “its full support for our heroes of Al-Aqsa,” while Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu defended police actions.
“Israel is acting responsibly to ensure respect for law and order in Jerusalem and allows freedom of worship,” Netanyahu said at a meeting of security officials.
Earlier Saturday, footage of Israeli police violently dispersing a sitting of Palestinian protesters to Sheikh Jarrah showed a group of policemen destroying tents and removing people from the site, while another clip showed an officer violently dragging a Palestinian woman to the road.
Israeli police also blocked Palestinian buses with Israeli citizenship to reach Al-Aqsa from the main road leading to Jerusalem.
“Cruel terrorist state”
Palestinians have organized a series of sit-ins in the area in recent days denouncing Israeli orders to remove them from their homes. Israeli security forces have attacked protesters using water, tear gas, rubber-coated vaults and shock grenades.
Dozens of Palestinians have been arrested. Entrances to Sheikh Jarrah’s neighborhood have also been blocked to keep protesters out.
Joining other countries in the region, Turkey denounced Israel’s assault on the Al-Aqsa Mosque, with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan calling Israel a “cruel terrorist state.”
“We strongly condemn Israel’s heinous attacks … which are unfortunately being carried out every Ramadan,” the Turkish president said.
Speaking at an event in Istanbul, Erdogan called on all Muslim countries and the international community to take “effective” action against Israel, adding that those who remain silent were “part of the cruelty there.”
The events in East Jerusalem sparked international calls to end the violence.
In a joint statement on Saturday, the Middle East Quartet – the United States, Russia, the European Union and the United Nations – expressed its “deep concern” over the facts.
“The envoys noted with great concern the possible evictions of Palestinian families from homes where they have lived for generations … and expressed opposition to unilateral actions, which will only increase the already tense environment,” he said.
“We call on the Israeli authorities to take moderation and avoid measures that will further aggravate the situation during this period of Muslim holy days.”
The United States, an ally of Israel, whose tone has hardened under U.S. President Joe Biden, said it was “extremely concerned” and urged both sides to “avoid measures that would exacerbate tensions. or take us away from peace. “
“This includes evictions in East Jerusalem, settlement activity, home demolition and acts of terrorism,” the U.S. State Department said.
An Arab League meeting is scheduled for Monday, but nothing on the ground is likely to change, said Marwan Bishara, Al Jazeera’s chief political analyst.
This is unless the Arab states, especially those that have it normalized relations with Israel, decides to take significant action, he said.
“Unless the Arab League takes any serious initiative, including notification of some of these states normalizing relations with Israel … I think we will simply see more statements,” Bishara said.