Dozens of people were injured when violent clashes erupted at the Damascus Gate of the Old City of Jerusalem late Thursday as Palestinian protesters confronted a group of some 300 extreme-right Jewish activists who marched to the scene chanting “Death to Arabs.” Police, trying to keep the groups apart, also clashed with the Palestinians, who threw rocks at the officers.
Officers used riot dispersal means including stun grenades, tear gas and water cannons to break up the Arab protestors, the sounds from the explosions rolling across the center of the capital. At least 105 Palestinians were injured, including 22 who were hospitalized, the Palestinian Red Crescent said.
Police said some 20 officers were injured in the clashes, including a mounted officer hit in the face by a rock. Three were taken for medical treatment.
Police also said over 50 people were arrested for throwing rocks, launching fireworks, assaulting cops and other violent acts during the rioting, which carried into early Friday. They were set to appear before the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court in the morning.
In one incident, police said a Jewish motorist was attacked in East Jerusalem and stones were thrown at his car. When he tried to flee on foot, he was caught and beaten by several people. His car was later set on fire.
Video on social media showed him being repeatedly kicked as he lay on the floor. Police said he had been hospitalized, but no details were given on his condition.
ערבים בועטים ביהודי שרוע כל הקרקע בשער שכם pic.twitter.com/zmAaAnUXdm
— גלעד כהן | Gilad Cohen (@GiladCohenJR) April 22, 2021
Police said they were searching for suspects.
Arab protesters also set a dumpster and a bus stop on fire.
According to the Israel Police, far-right Jewish extremists also hurled stones and set a trash can ablaze at a Jerusalem intersection.
Video posted to social media from the scene showed Jewish youths attacking an Arab home just inside the Old City.
The sounds of children crying can be heard as a woman, unseen, shouts “Stop” in Arabic while several youths throw objects at the home.
יהודים תוקפים בית בעיר העתיקה. אם תדליקו את הרמקולים תשמעו את הבכי של הילדים. pic.twitter.com/lgR5HaXe1s
— نير حسون Nir Hasson ניר חסון (@nirhasson) April 22, 2021
The clashes came a day after running street battles between Jews and Arabs in downtown Jerusalem.
In response, the Jewish supremacist Lehava group had called for a protest Thursday in a show of “national honor.”
Some 300 activists from the Lehava group took part in the march that brought them to within a few dozen meters of Damascus Gate where Palestinians had gathered in a counter-protest.
Lehava protestors chanted “Death to the Arabs!” and “Arabs get out!” as police tried to keep the two sides apart while also dealing with attacks from the Palestinian protestors, who had gathered at the gate to counter the expected march and began throwing rocks and bottles at police.
Though police had deployed hundreds of officers ahead of the march to prevent it from reaching its destination, dozens of Lehava protesters were able to reach the Palestinian crowd and the two sides began throwing objects at each other, Channel 12 News reported.
Police eventually moved in to separate the crowds, positioning mounted officers to hold back the Lehava demonstration that was led by the group’s chief, Bentzi Gopstein.
“We allow protest in the name of freedom of expression, but we will take action against any form of violence,” police said ahead of the march.
After being blocked by police forces from reaching the Old City, several dozen Lehava supporters marched up to the nearby Mahane Yehuda market where they attacked several Arab workers, police said. Police officers rescued the workers who took refuge in a shop.
Hebrew media reported that Lehava activists and Palestinians had both used social media to encourage their supporters to reach the area.
The Kan public broadcaster reported that right-wing activists had shared information for planned violence in Whatsapp messages with one writing, “Today we will burn Arabs, the Molotov cocktails are already in the bag.”
On Wednesday several people were arrested following a brawl in downtown Jerusalem between dozens of Jews and Arabs, according to Hebrew media reports. One person was lightly hurt and received medical treatment at the scene.
In addition, a 15-year-old Jewish Israeli was stabbed in the leg, suffering light injuries.
Jerusalem has seen several days of violence after a number of assaults on Jews that were filmed and later uploaded to the TikTok video-sharing app, including one of an East Jerusalem teenager slapping two ultra-Orthodox boys on the light rail. Along with the recent violence in Jerusalem toward Jews, there have also been attacks on Arabs, with chants of “Death to Arabs” heard during the assaults.
בשער שכם פלסטינים מיידים אבנים וחפצים על שוטרים, ולא רחוק משם מאות בני נוער וצעירים יהודים שצועקים בין היתר "מוות לערבים ו"עוד כהנא חי". רצו להגיע לרחבה, אבל המשטרה חוצצת pic.twitter.com/ZFUnn7GwTE
— Maya Horodniceanu (@mayahorodnicean) April 22, 2021
Along with the ethnic tensions, Jerusalem has seen regular clashes over the past week between Palestinian residents and police who have been blocking Palestinians from sitting on the steps of Damascus Gate. In an unofficial Jerusalem tradition, thousands of Palestinians sit in the area following nighttime prayers during Ramadan.
Police have deployed water cannons and stun grenades to disperse crowds while rioters have hurled stones and set off fireworks at cops.
The force said Thursday that to date it has arrested 79 people in connection with the recent violence, 64 of whom are still remanded in custody.
The Islamic holy month has long been a flashpoint for violence between young Palestinians and Israeli security forces.
Lehava opposes intermarriage and assimilation of Jews with non-Jews, as well as LGBT rights, and tries to stifle any public activity by non-Jews in Israel, including coexistence events. Lawmakers across the political spectrum have tried to designate it a terrorist group and its leader has been barred from running for the Knesset.