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PA, Hamas slam Israel for Jerusalem violence, praise ‘heroic’ Arab protesters

Far-right Israeli MK accuses ‘weak Jewish government’ of allowing Palestinian lawlessness, compares situation to deadly 1936 Arab revolt; 125 hurt, 50 arrested in Old City clashes

Palestinian run from stun grenades canisters as members of Israeli security forces deploy amid clashes with Palestinian protesters outside Damascus Gate in Jerusalem's Old City on April 22, 2021. (Photo by AHMAD GHARABLI / AFP)
Palestinian run from stun grenades canisters as members of Israeli security forces deploy amid clashes with Palestinian protesters outside Damascus Gate in Jerusalem's Old City on April 22, 2021. (Photo by AHMAD GHARABLI / AFP)

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas condemned the violent clashes late Thursday in Jerusalem, blaming far-right Israelis for inciting violence under “the protection of the Israeli army and police.”

The Hamas terror group, which rules the Gaza Strip, also condemned Israel for the clashes, calling it an Israeli plot against the Al-Aqsa Mosque, one of Islam’s holiest sites on the Temple Mount.

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.

Members of the Israeli security forces deploy during clashes with Palestinian protesters outside the Damascus Gate in Jerusalem’s Old City on April 22, 2021. (Photo by AHMAD GHARABLI / AFP)

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.

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.

Abbas condemned the right-wing violence, saying he “holds the Israeli government fully responsible for this serious deterioration.”

An injured Palestinian protester receives treatment after being hit during clashes outside the Damascus Gate in Jerusalem’s Old City on April 22, 2021. (Photo by AHMAD GHARABLI / AFP)

“Settlers and extreme right-wing groups are encouraging the killing of Arabs with the protection of the Israeli army and police,” Abbas said in a statement.

Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh called the actions of the Arab youth heroic.

“The scenes of heroism emerging from the streets and alleys of the city of Jerusalem tonight of the defenseless Jerusalem youth with willpower and resolve as they stand up to settler attacks, confirm once again the failure of Israeli plans to Judaize the Holy City,” said Shtayyeh

Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh celebrated the clashes, which he claimed were the result of an Israeli plot against Al-Aqsa Mosque.

“What is happening in the Holy City now is an affirmation of the Arab, Islamic and Palestinian essence of this city, and that it cannot submit to the occupation or accept it and its fascist policies,” Haniyeh said.

The clashes came a day after running street battles between Jews and Arabs in downtown Jerusalem.

Streets are set ablaze as members of the Israeli security forces deploy during clashes with Palestinian protesters outside the Damascus Gate in Jerusalem’s Old City on April 22, 2021. (Photo by AHMAD GHARABLI / AFP)

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 the 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 groups 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.

Israeli border police block members of “Lahava,” a Jewish extremist group, approaching Damascus Gate outside Jerusalem’s Old City, Thursday, April 22, 2021. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)

Police eventually moved in to separate the crowds, positioning mounted officers to hold back the Lehava demonstration that was lead by the group’s chief, Bentzi Gopstein.

Meanwhile, far-right Israeli lawmaker Bezalel Smotrich slammed the Israeli government for not taking a stronger stand against violence from the Palestinian side.

“The riots of the Arab enemy throughout the country in recent days takes us back many years to the great Arab revolt of 1936,” Smotrich Tweeted.

“Then a hostile British government that backed the rioters, today a faceless Jewish government consisting of weak leadership, a tainted justice system and a neutered law enforcement system caught up in dangerous post-national and postmodern conceptions,” he wrote.

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.

There have also been clashes between Jews and Arabs in Jaffa.

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 Islamic holy month has long been a flashpoint for violence between young Palestinians and Israeli security forces.

Israeli border police detain an Israeli youth as members of “Lahava”, a Jewish extremist group, as they try approach to Damascus Gate to protest amid heightened tensions in the city, just outside Jerusalem’s Old City, Thursday, April. 22, 2021. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)

Lehava opposes intermarriage and assimilation of Jews and 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 as a terrorist group and its leader has been barred from running for the Knesset.

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