Jewish, Palestinian worshipers clash in Jerusalem a day after city’s Flag March

Rioters throw stones, injuring two 20-year-olds and a policeman, as law enforcers try to disperse crowd; 8 arrested in overnight disturbances across the capital

Police officers detain an Israeli youth after his group was chanting slogans at the entrance to the Al Aqsa Mosque compound during the annual Flag March in Jerusalem's Old City, May 18, 2023. (AP Photo/Maya Alleruzzo)
Illustrative: Police officers detain an Israeli youth after his group was chanting slogans at the entrance to the Al Aqsa Mosque compound during the annual Flag March in Jerusalem's Old City, May 18, 2023. (AP Photo/Maya Alleruzzo)

Clashes between Jewish and Palestinian worshipers broke out across Jerusalem’s Old City on Friday, a day after the contentious annual Flag March through the Muslim Quarter, which was again marred by abuse and racism toward Palestinians.

Rioters at the Lion’s Gate threw rocks and other objects at each other, as police stood between the groups and used riot dispersal methods to clear the crowd, police said. The violence came as Israelis commemorated Jerusalem Day, marking the reunification of East and West Jerusalem during the 1967 Six Day War.

Amid the violence, two 20-year-olds — reportedly Jews — suffered light injuries to the head and were taken to Shaare Zedek Medical Center for treatment, according to the Magen David Adom ambulance service.

A policeman was also wounded and required medical treatment.

Overnight Thursday, eight suspects were arrested in violent incidents across Jerusalem.

Border Police were deployed to disperse Jewish and Arab rioters who threw stones at each other and vehicles in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of A-Tur, causing damage to cars, according to a police statement.

Police said they detained two residents of East Jerusalem and three West Bank settlers for questioning over the disturbances.

In another incident, two suspects were arrested for spraying pepper spray at civilians and soldiers outside Jerusalem’s Old City. There were no reports of injuries as a result of the attacks.

Also near the Old City, a 25-year-old suspect from the coastal city of Ashdod was arrested for spraying pepper spray at two civilians. They were lightly wounded and required medical treatment.

The disturbances on Friday and Thursday came after the annual Flag March to the Western Wall, which is meant to celebrate Jerusalem’s reunification. It has gained notoriety over the years as it is often tainted by hate speech and violence by far-right Jewish participants toward Palestinians and their property.

This year’s event once again featured racist chants and scuffles with Palestinian residents as the largely teenage, religious nationalist participants made their way through the Old City’s Muslim Quarter.

“Deeply disturbed by the inciteful and racist chants by some Israeli participants in the annual flag march held in Jerusalem’s Old City yesterday,” UN Middle East peace envoy Tor Wennesland tweeted Friday, following earlier international criticism. “I deplore the attacks on journalists while covering the march. Such actions and statements only breed fear, hatred and distrust.”

“All leaders have a responsibility to act against extremists and to speak out against acts of violence and incitement,” Wennesland added.

Police said they arrested 10 people even before the formal start of the Thursday rally at 4 p.m., including several left-wing activists who temporarily blocked a West Bank highway outside of Jerusalem while attempting to prevent settlers from attending the march. Several other people were detained for provoking Palestinians, police said.

Despite several dozen instances of violence and harassment by Jewish participants, and pre-march threats by Gaza terror groups, the rally managed to conclude without a major incident. Two years ago, Hamas fired a barrage of rockets at Jerusalem to coincide with the march, leading to an 11-day war between Israel and Gaza.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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