Dozens of right-wing Jewish activists marched toward the Old City in Jerusalem on Thursday evening, as heavy clashes between police and Arab residents of East Jerusalem persisted.
The worst violence was concentrated in the Shuafat refugee camp where around 200 Arab youths hurled rocks and firecrackers at the security forces, who responded with tear gas, percussion grenades and rubber bullets, an AFP correspondent said.
Police said that there were no damages or injuries in the incident, and two youths were later arrested for rock-throwing.
Channel 2 aired footage of Palestinian protesters throwing firebombs at a police pillbox in Shuafat, and reported that some 2,000 additional police reinforcements will be deployed in the capital on Friday.
A Hamas man who killed an Israeli and injured 14 more in a terrorist attack on Wednesday came from the Shuafat camp.
Additional clashes were reported by police in the Jabel Mukaber neighborhood.
Earlier Thursday, police closed off access to cars into the Abu Tor neighborhood, after stone-throwing Palestinians damaged six cars and a bus. There were no injuries reported in that attack, and police said they were searching for the culprits.
Meanwhile, around 100 Jewish protesters gathered near the Old City on Thursday night for a march “to the gates of the Temple Mount.”
“We are proudly marching with high heads to the direction of the Temple Mount. God willing, we’ll get there,” organizer Ariel Groner told AFP at the site where a Palestinian recently tried to assassinate Rabbi Yehudah Glick, a campaigner for Jewish prayer rights at the compound.
Yaakov Heyman, an American-born Israeli, said he was there to send a message to those Palestinians protesting against Jews “exercising our rights on the Temple Mount.”
“Bullets won’t stop our freedom,” he said, as the crowd waved blue and gold flags emblazoned with a picture of the Temple.
“The status quo isn’t holy, the Temple Mount is.”
The demonstrators then began marching to the Western Wall plaza but said they would not try to enter the esplanade which is situated just above it.
The march and continued clashes came amid weeks of unrest in the capital, and confrontation between police and rock-throwing Palestinians on the Temple Mount.
The sensitive site, holy to both Judaism and Islam, has been the source of tension in past days, following the attempted killing of Glick, and a call from right-wing MKs to alter the status quo of the Temple Mount.
Under the present arrangement, the site remains under Jordan’s custodianship — as part of the 1994 peace agreement — and Jews are allowed in the compound, but are barred from religious worship or prayer.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has repeatedly stressed in past days that there will be no change to the present arrangement, and spoke Thursday with Jordan’s King Abdullah II to reiterate his stance.
The prime minister was seeking to avert a diplomatic crisis with its neighbor, after the Hashemite Kingdom responded angrily to the events on the Temple Mount in the past few days, turning to the UN to complain, recalling its ambassador, and threatening to reevaluate its ties and peace treaty with the Jewish state.
Jerusalem remained on high alert Thursday after a terror attack on a light rail train stop the day before left a border policeman dead and a dozen other people injured.
East Jerusalem resident Ibrahim al-Akary, 48, drove his van into a group of pedestrians. Akary, who lived in Shuafat, was shot by police when he emerged from the vehicle and attacked passersby with a metal bar.
Six people remain hospitalized from that attack; one in critical condition, three with serious injuries and two with moderate-to-light injuries.
It was the second such attack on the light rail in the past two weeks.