Security forces brace for renewed Palestinian protests amid Jerusalem tensions

Security forces brace for renewed Palestinian protests amid Jerusalem tensions

Police in Jerusalem arrest 14 people suspected of involvement in violence, a day after 4 Palestinians were killed in the West Bank and Gaza during clashes and attacks

Israeli border police face Palestinian protesters at the Qalandiya checkpoint near the West Bank city of Ramallah on December 15, 2017, (Flash90)
Israeli border police face Palestinian protesters at the Qalandiya checkpoint near the West Bank city of Ramallah on December 15, 2017, (Flash90)

Israeli security forces were on high alert Saturday in preparation for a possible renewal of riots in Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, a day after four Palestinians died in clashes and attacks on Israeli troops.

Tensions could be further stoked following a senior White House official’s statement to reporters Friday that the administration “cannot envision any situation under which the Western Wall would not be part of Israel” in any peace accord.

Palestinians claim East Jerusalem, including the Old City, as the capital of their intended independent state.

Police in Jerusalem arrested 14 people overnight suspected of involvement in rock-throwing and other violence against security forces. Some violent incidents and clashes with police were also registered in East Jerusalem overnight.

Thousands demonstrated in the West Bank and Gaza Friday against the US recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

Palestinians take part in a protest in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, on December 15, 2017. (Abed Rahim Khatib/ Flash90)

One man, Mohammed Aqal, was shot near Ramallah after stabbing an Israeli Border Police officer in the upper torso while wearing a mock suicide belt. He was taken away by Palestinian medics and later died of his wounds.

The Palestinian Authority health ministry said a second man was shot and killed in clashes in Anata on the northeast outskirts of Jerusalem.

Two more Palestinians were killed along the Gaza-Israel border, the Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry said. The army said it opened fire on the “main instigators” of violent protests at the Gaza border after they failed to heed repeated calls to stop approaching the fence.

Following noontime prayers riots were reported in most major Palestinian cities. Demonstrators burned tires and threw petrol bombs and rocks at Israeli troops, who fired back at them with tear gas and rubber bullets. The Palestinian Red Crescent reported that dozens of protesters sustained light wounds.

Israeli officials said the number of violent protesters dropped significantly this weekend compared to the last.

Israeli police clash with Palestinian protesters at Damascus Gate in the Old City of Jerusalem on December 15, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Palestinians have been outraged by President Donald Trump’s December 6 declaration that the US recognizes Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Trump stressed that he was not specifying the boundaries of Israeli sovereignty in the city, and called for no change in the status quo at the city’s holy sites.

But Palestinian leaders, angered by what they see as the US dismissing their claims to East Jerusalem as the capital of their future state, have called for demonstrations and “days of rage.” Hamas leaders also urged the start of a new intifada, or uprising.

In Jerusalem itself, around 30,000 people prayed at the Al-Aqsa Mosque on the Temple Mount Friday, according to the Islamic organization that administers the site. The vast majority left without incident, but small scuffles broke out in the Old City.

Earlier on Friday, a 30-year-old Israeli was lightly injured near the West Bank town of Hizme, outside Jerusalem, when Palestinians threw rocks at his car.

Palestinian protester runs for cover from tear gas during clashes with Israeli security forces near the border fence with Israel, east of Gaza City on December 15, 2017 (AFP PHOTO / MOHAMMED ABED)

During riots at various locations in the capital in recent days, protesters threw stones, glass bottles, Molotov cocktails and other objects at officers as well as blocking roads, burning garbage cans and shooting firecrackers at police. Several officers have been injured.

The West Bank has also seen daily confrontations between protesters and IDF troops.

On Israel’s southern border with Gaza, protests along the border fence have been accompanied by a marked uptick in rocket attacks, with over a dozen missiles fired since Trump’s speech. Hamas, the terror group which rules Gaza and seeks to destroy Israel, has called for a new intifada to liberate Jerusalem and urged Palestinians to confront soldiers and settlers.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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