Fresh clashes between Israeli forces, Palestinians in Jerusalem and West Bank

Scuffles and riots break out near Damascus Gate, Qalandiya checkpoint as Gaza rocket fire renewed; at least 6 reported hurt in confrontations, 17 arrested

Israeli security forces push out Palestinian protesters outside the Damascus Gate in Jerusalem's Old City on April 24, 2021. (Ahmad GHARABLI / AFP)
Israeli security forces push out Palestinian protesters outside the Damascus Gate in Jerusalem's Old City on April 24, 2021. (Ahmad GHARABLI / AFP)

Fresh scuffles between Israeli police and Palestinians broke out at Damascus Gate in Jerusalem’s Old City on Saturday night, following week-long tensions and renewed rocket fire from the Gaza Strip toward southern Israel.

The Palestinian Red Crescent reported that six Palestinians required medical care, including one taken to hospital for treatment. It did not specify how they were injured.

Unrest was reported in a number of different areas. Near the Qalandiya crossing between Jerusalem and Ramallah, a spokesperson for the Border Police said forces were “dealing with about a hundred rioters brandishing firebombs, stones, and fireworks” and responding with riot dispersal means.

Police said Sunday morning that 17 suspects had been arrested overnight over alleged assaults on officers, rock-throwing, Molotov cocktail-throwing and more.

Police’s Jerusalem District chief, Doron Turgeman, told the Kan public broadcaster on Sunday morning that the number of detainees since the unrest began has reached 157, including 54 arrested for suspected attacks with a “racist motive.” Turgeman told Army Radio that most alleged offenders arrested are Muslim.

Hundreds of Palestinians also marched toward Israeli checkpoints across the West Bank in solidarity with East Jerusalem Palestinians, leading to confrontations. According to reports in the Palestinian media, Palestinians hurled stones and burned garbage cans close to Jenin’s Jalameh checkpoint during the protest. Palestinians also demonstrated close to Nablus’s Huwarra checkpoint and Hebron’s Bab al-Zawiyeh, which borders a crossing within the city administered by the Israeli military.

There have been nightly disturbances in Jerusalem since the start of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan on April 13, amid Palestinian anger over police blocking off access to the promenade around the walls of the Old City and a ban on gatherings. In an unofficial Jerusalem tradition, thousands of Palestinians sit in the area following nighttime prayers during Ramadan.

Palestinian demonstrators burn tires at the Qalandia checkpoint between the West Bank town of Ramallah and Jerusalem on April 24, 2021, during a gathering in support of demonstrators in Jerusalem. (ABBAS MOMANI / AFP)

Video from Damascus Gate on Saturday appeared to show scuffling between Palestinian worshipers and Border Police forces as officers cleared the worshipers from the stairs outside the gate.

Police earlier Saturday said they were gearing up for continued unrest after more than 105 Palestinians were wounded late Thursday when they 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.

Jerusalem Mayor Moshe Lion said Saturday that there was “zero tolerance for violence” in the city, adding that the situation is “sad, very sad, because I know how much cooperation there has been with East Jerusalem.”

“We won’t let a minority, from either side, sow chaos. We want quiet,” he added.

Jerusalem has seen over a week of violence after a number of assaults on Jews that were filmed and later uploaded to the TikTok social media platform, 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.

Police Commissioner Yaakov Shabtai told reporters on Saturday that forces had managed to arrest nearly all of those involved with the so-called TikTok assaults.

Responding to criticism surrounding the violence on Thursday, Shabtai said “we prepared in advance and managed to separate the residents of East Jerusalem from them,” referring to the Jewish supremacist Lehava group.

Police stand in front of demonstrators from the Lehava Jewish extremist group at Damascus Gate in Jerusalem on April 22, 2021. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Some 300 activists from Lehava took part in the march on Thursday that brought them to within a few dozen meters of Damascus Gate where Palestinians had gathered in a counter-protest.

“At the same time, we allowed regular prayer on the Temple Mount. At the end of the event, there were several incidents throughout Jerusalem and they were addressed. One of them is the lynching, and I pledge to bring everyone involved to justice,” Shabtai said.

The police chief was referring to an incident where 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. From his hospital bed, the motorist who was attacked, 46-year-old Yahya Jardi, later recalled thinking he wouldn’t make it out alive.

The police chief denounced “extremists from both sides” and said reinforcements were sent to Jerusalem to help deal with the unrest.

There are also police fears over potential “lone-wolf” terror attacks on Jews or Arabs in light of the recent tensions, but there is no current information on actual plans to carry out attacks, the Haaretz daily reported Saturday.

Israeli security forces detain a Palestinian protester outside Damascus Gate in Jerusalem’s Old City on April 23, 2021 (Ahmad GHARABLI / AFP)

Also Saturday, hundreds of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip joined in what Hamas media claimed were “spontaneous marches” in support of the East Jerusalem demonstrators.

According to Palestinian media, the IDF fired a number of flares into the air around the protest sites, notably near the shuttered Karni border crossing, where some 700 people were taking part in a demonstration. The IDF also reportedly fired stun grenades to keep people away from the security fence

Palestinians hold Hamas movement green flags attend a protest in solidarity with Muslim worshippers in Jerusalem, in Gaza City, Friday, April. 23, 2021. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)

Meanwhile, Palestinian terrorists in the Gaza Strip fired two rockets into southern Israel on Saturday night, one of which was intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defense system, as attacks from the enclave continued into a second day and threatened to intensify.

Palestinians chant slogans as they burn tires during a rally in support of demonstrators in Jerusalem on April 24, 2021, in Gaza City. (MAHMUD HAMS / AFP)

Palestinian terror groups have said that the rocket attacks were responses to ongoing unrest in Jerusalem.

Israeli boys examine the site where a rocket fired from the Gaza Strip landed in Israel, April 24, 2021 (AP Photo/Tsafrir Abayov)

Over the course of Friday night and the predawn hours of Saturday morning, terrorists in the enclave launched at least 36 projectiles into southern Israel — toward the city of Ashkelon and the Eshkol, Sdot Negev, Sha’ar Hanegev, and Hof Ashkelon regions — several of which landed inside Israeli communities, where they damaged a number of buildings and vehicles. Six of the rockets were intercepted by the Iron Dome, according to the IDF.

Hamas did not take responsibility for the rocket fire. But Israel has stressed in the past it holds Hamas, Gaza’s rulers, responsible for all violence emanating from the Strip.

Judah Ari Gross contributed to this report.

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