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Clashes between Palestinians, police in East Jerusalem’s Sheikh Jarrah

Law enforcement working to restore order at site that was at center of recent flareup; police arrest 2nd suspect in firebombing of Jaffa home that wounded two children

File: Israeli security forces on horseback disperse Palestinian demonstrators during protests against Israel at the flashpoint Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood in East Jerusalem, on May 18, 2021 (EMMANUEL DUNAND / AFP)
File: Israeli security forces on horseback disperse Palestinian demonstrators during protests against Israel at the flashpoint Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood in East Jerusalem, on May 18, 2021 (EMMANUEL DUNAND / AFP)

Clashes broke out Saturday between police and dozens of protesters in Sheikh Jarrah, an East Jerusalem neighborhood that has been a key flashpoint over the pending eviction of several Palestinian families from homes claimed by Jewish nationalists.

Police say some of the protesters threw bottles at cops on the scene, while chanting and singing songs in praise of “martyrs.” Officers were working to “restore order” and disperse the protest, according to a police statement.

The Sheikh Jarrah eviction was a central reason for the major unrest in Jerusalem earlier this month that ended up sparking an 11-day conflict with Israel in Gaza, after violent protests spread to the Temple Mount and Al-Aqsa Mosque and led Hamas to fire rockets at Jerusalem.

The evictions are based in part on a 1970 Israeli law that allows Jews to reclaim East Jerusalem land owned by Jews before 1948. But no similar law exists for Palestinians who lost their homes in what is now Israel during the 1948 Israeli War of Independence. Moreover, most Jews moving into Sheikh Jarrah are motivated by ideology, not through a familial connection to the homes.

Also on Saturday police and the Shin Bet security service arrested another suspect in the firebombing of a home in Jaffa in which a 12-year-old boy was seriously hurt.

The suspect is the brother of a Jaffa resident in his 20s who was arrested earlier this week over the attack, according to a police statement.

Amid Arab-Jewish rioting, attackers firebombed an Arab home in the Ajami neighborhood of the coastal city on Friday night, injuring two children. A 10-year-old girl was lightly wounded and her 12-year-old brother Muhammad was left with serious injuries.

Police believe the attackers were Arabs who mistakenly believed the home’s residents to be Jewish.

Friday saw Palestinians clash with police on Jerusalem’s Temple Mount, mere hours after a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas went into effect.

It was not immediately clear how the confrontation erupted. According to Israeli police, officers acted to contain a riot by Palestinian worshipers at the scene.

“Immediately after the noon prayer, a riot broke out on the Temple Mount by hundreds of young people that included throwing stones and throwing a Molotov cocktail at the forces,” Israel Police said in a statement.

The clashes marked the first test of the ceasefire between Israel and Hamas. Frictions at the holy site — with Israeli security forces entering the compound and clashing with Palestinian rioters — were a major factor in the tensions that preceded Hamas’s rocket fire at Jerusalem on May 10, at the start of the 11-day conflict in which over 200 Gazans and 12 Israelis were killed.

Palestinians run from sound bombs thrown by Israeli police in front of the Dome of the Rock shrine at the al-Aqsa mosque complex in Jerusalem, Friday, May 21, 2021. (AP Photo/Mahmoud Illean)

The Temple Mount is the holiest site in Judaism, as the site of both biblical temples. It is holy to Muslims as the site of the third holiest shrine in Islam, the Al-Aqsa Mosque.

Tens of thousands of Palestinians gathered at the flashpoint site for Friday prayers just after noon. After finishing, thousands chanted slogans and hoisted Palestinian flags.

In videos from the courtyard surrounding the Al-Aqsa Mosque several minutes later, police could be seen firing stun grenades at Palestinians as they attempted to clear the square. More than a dozen Palestinians were detained on the scene.

In another video from the scene, an Israeli cop is attacked by a Palestinian man who knocks him violently to the ground as Palestinians around him cheer.

Some Palestinian reports claimed the unrest was sparked when Israeli police sought to confiscate the Palestinian flags being waved by worshipers.

Twenty Palestinians were injured and two were hospitalized, the Palestinian Red Crescent Society said.

In an attempt to avoid further confrontations, Israeli authorities have banned access by Jewish visitors to the Temple Mount for the time being. Many Palestinians view the visits as a provocation, while Jews say they are exercising their right to visit Judaism’s most holy place, even though Israel does not allow Jews to pray there.

Israeli politicians have said the ceasefire was unconditional, with “calm in exchange for calm.” Hamas said that it demanded Israeli concessions at the Temple Mount in exchange for the truce.

Aaron Boxerman contributed to this report.

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