Police alter Flag March, keeping it away from Damascus Gate

Some 300 Palestinians, 21 cops said hurt in latest heavy clashes in Jerusalem

Police forces again burst into Temple Mount after attacks from Arab demonstrators, amid sky-high tensions surrounding Al-Aqsa, Jerusalem Day and Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood

Palestinians clash with Israeli security forces on Temple Mount aka the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem's Old City, May 10, 2021. (AP Photo/Mahmoud Illean)
Palestinians clash with Israeli security forces on Temple Mount aka the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem's Old City, May 10, 2021. (AP Photo/Mahmoud Illean)

Hundreds of Palestinian protesters and at least 21 police officers were injured throughout Monday morning in fierce clashes on Jerusalem’s Temple Mount, accoring to medical officials and police.

The Palestinian Red Crescent reported that 305 people were hurt in the confrontation between Palestinians and police, as the latter burst onto the Temple Mount and into its Al-Aqsa Mosque. The Israel Police said rioters had been hurling rocks and other objects from the holy site and launching fireworks at officers, leading them to enter the compound, a relatively uncommon move by Israeli security forces.

Riot police responded with tear gas, stun grenades and rubber-coated bullets.

Around 205 Palestinians were hospitalized, of whom seven were in serious condition, the first aid organization reported. At least 21 police officers were injured, including one who required hospitalization, police said.

At certain points during the clashes, the police emptied the Temple Mount and temporarily barred people from returning but eventually let them back in.

The riots came shortly after police on Monday morning decided to bar Jews from entering the flashpoint holy site on Jerusalem Day due to spiraling tensions in the capital, drawing fury from right-wing legislators but support from the left.

Police also changed the route for an annual parade by nationalist Jews through the capital in order to limit the chances of direct confrontations between the participants and the Muslim residents of the Old City, despite initially saying they had no plan to alter the event.

The so-called Flag March was barred from entering the Old City through the Damascus Gate and the Muslim Quarter. Instead the parade was instructed to enter the Jaffa Gate and proceed from there to the Western Wall.

The decision was made at the orders of Israel’s political echelon, following a situational assessment with the country’s security services. The Israel Defense Forces, Shin Bet security service and Israel’s military liaison to the Palestinians all said they believed that the intended route was likely to result in violence.

Police entered the Temple Mount compound in the morning after thousands of Palestinians gathered in the compound overnight, having collected numerous rocks and other makeshift weapons. Police said dozens of rioters attacked a police post and started hurling rocks from the Temple Mount toward a road south of the compound, blocking the road but causing no injuries or damage.

That prompted police to enter the Temple Mount area. Officers were attacked and responded with stun grenades, police said. The Palestinian Red Crescent said hundreds were injured, as footage posted on social media showed some of the clashes.

In one incident outside the Old City, Palestinian rioters hurled rocks and other objects at a Jewish man’s car and tried to drag him and his two passengers out of it before the driver sped into one of the assailants.

A police officer who was nearby ran to the scene and protected the driver and the passengers, who were mildly injured, as rioters attempted to attack them. The officer fired his pistol into the air to keep the mob away, police said.

The driver and passenger were taken to Jerusalem’s Hadassah Mount Scopus Medical Center for treatment. The condition of the Palestinian man who was hit by the car was not immediately known, though he could be seen in video footage walking away after the crash.

Israeli security forces at the scene after a car carrying Jewish Israelis was attacked by Arab rioters outside Jerusalem’s Old City, on May 10, 2021 (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Israel’s military liaison to the Palestinians, Maj. Gen. Ghassan Alian, attempted to ease the rising tensions in Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip, telling Palestinians that Israel is “dedicated to allowing freedom of worship in Jerusalem to all religions.

“Some of those involved truly believe that they are protecting holy sites, but in fact they are desecrating them,” Alian said. “Those involved are being riled up and used cynically by those who are trying to escalate the situation and set the area on fire, using violent and inflammatory language on social media and in the media.”

Sunday night saw fierce clashes between Palestinian protesters and police in Jerusalem. At least 25 people were wounded and 23 people arrested.

The Temple Mount is considered holy by both Muslims and Jews. The site contains the Al-Aqsa Mosque — the third holiest site in Islam — and is revered by Jews as their holiest site, where both biblical Temples stood. Jews have been barred from entering the site in recent days amid the tensions, which coincide with the end of the holy Muslim month of Ramadan.

Palestinian officials condemned Monday’s “storming of Al-Aqsa” by Israeli police and vowed that they would consider “all options” in response.

“Storming the Al-Aqsa Mosque is a crime committed by the occupation. The Palestinian leadership is studying all options to respond to this heinous aggression against the holy sites and the citizens,” tweets senior Palestinian Authority official Hussein al-Sheikh, one of PA President Mahmoud Abbas’s closest advisers.

Sami Abu Zuhri, a spokesperson for the Hamas terror group, called the clashes “a real massacre and war crime.

“We call on our entire nation to take to the streets and clash with the occupation,” he said, adding that “Israel will pay a heavy price for its forcible takeover of Al-Aqsa.”

The police announcement barring Jewish visits to the Temple Mount on Jerusalem Day came shortly before the scheduled start of the visits and after hundreds of Jews had already made their way toward the Temple Mount.

Palestinians place Hamas flags atop al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem’s Old City on May 10, 2021. (Ahmad GHARABLI / AFP)

The police statement said thousands of officers had been deployed throughout Jerusalem and its Old City since early Monday morning “to secure the events and to protect the public’s safety.”

East Jerusalem has seen violent nights for the past few weeks. Demonstrators have been protesting over tensions surrounding the Mount as well as the pending eviction of Palestinians from East Jerusalem’s Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood.

The protests in Sheikh Jarrah have devolved into clashes with police, with security forces using high-pressure water cannons, rubber-tipped bullets, and stun grenades to disperse the demonstrators. Matters came to a head on Friday night when police clashed with Palestinians on the Temple Mount, with dozens of people wounded.

Jerusalem Day celebrates Israel’s unification of Jerusalem, with the capture of East Jerusalem and the Old City from Jordan in the 1967 war. The march is widely perceived as provocative, as hardline nationalist Israelis, guarded by police, walk through the Damascus Gate of the Old City and through the Muslim Quarter to the Western Wall, the holiest site where Jews can pray.

This year the march coincides with the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, a time of heightened religious sensitivities, and follows weeks of clashes.

Addressing a special cabinet meeting ahead of Jerusalem Day, Netanyahu said Sunday that Israel “will not allow any extremists to destabilize the calm in Jerusalem. We will enforce law and order decisively and responsibly.”

The violence, along with the planned evictions in East Jerusalem, have drawn condemnations from Israel’s Arab allies and expressions of concern from the United States, Europe and the United Nations.

Palestinians evacuate a wounded protester amid clashes with Israeli security forces in Jerusalem’s Old City on Jerusalem Day, May 10, 2021. (Photo by EMMANUEL DUNAND / AFP)

The UN Security Council was set to meet on Jerusalem violence later Monday.

There were also signs the violence was beginning to spread.

Late Sunday, Palestinian terrorists in the Gaza Strip fired four rockets toward Israel, setting off air raid sirens in the southern city of Ashkelon and nearby areas, the IDF said. It said one rocket was intercepted, while two others exploded inside Gaza. Early Monday, Israeli tanks and artillery struck several Hamas posts near the border in retaliation for the rocket fire. There were no reports of injuries.

Earlier in the day, Israel carried out an airstrike on a Hamas post in response to another rocket attack. Gazan protesters affiliated with Hamas also launched incendiary balloons into southern Israel during the day Sunday, causing dozens of fires.

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