Hundreds of Palestinian protesters and at least 16 police officers were injured Monday as the two sides clashed on the Temple Mount in the Old City of Jerusalem in the latest round of festering tensions that have exploded into nightly violence over the past week.
The Palestinian Red Crescent reported that 305 people were hurt in the confrontation between Palestinians and police, as the latter entered the Temple Mount compound. 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.
The Temple Mount is considered holy by both Muslims and Jews. The site is revered by Jews as their holiest place, where both biblical Temples stood, and contains the Al-Aqsa Mosque, the third holiest site in Islam. Jews have been barred from entering the site in recent days amid the tensions, which coincide with the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
The mount has been at the center of repeated clashes this week, while the broader East Jerusalem area has seen violent nights for the past few weeks. Demonstrators and rioters have been protesting over tensions surrounding the Mount as well as the pending eviction of several Palestinian families from East Jerusalem’s Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood, to be replaced by right-wing Israeli nationalists. The Palestinians live in houses built on land that courts have ruled were owned by Jewish religious associations before the establishment of Israel in 1948.
Bloody end to Ramadan
Clashes erupt on Friday as Muslims pack the Al-Aqsa compound to pray on the last Friday of the holy fasting month of Ramadan. Violence had been building in the holy city and the West Bank for the previous week.
Palestinians hurl stones, bottles, and fireworks at police, who fire rubber bullets and stun grenades. More than 220 people, mostly Palestinians, are wounded.
On Saturday prayers at the mosque compound are held peacefully but violence flares elsewhere in East Jerusalem. Some 121 Palestinians are wounded overnight, many hit by rubber bullets and stun grenades, the Palestinian Red Crescent says. Israeli police say 17 officers are wounded.
The four members of the Middle East Quartet — the US, Russia, the EU and the UN — express “deep concern” over the violence.
Court case delay
Much of the recent unrest stems from the long-running legal effort by right-wing nationalist Israeli groups to evict several Palestinian families from their homes in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah in a real estate dispute over properties.
A lower court ruling earlier this year backing the settlers’ decades-old claim infuriated Palestinians.
A Supreme Court hearing on a Palestinian appeal had been set for Monday and risked inflaming tensions further.
On Sunday the Justice Ministry delays the hearing in light of “the circumstances.”
Scuffles between Palestinians and police in East Jerusalem continue overnight into Sunday.
Pope Francis joins global calls for an end to the violence.
In the evening police again face off against mostly young Palestinians at several locations in East Jerusalem.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu defends Israel’s response to the protests and rioting. “We will uphold law and order –- vigorously and responsibly,” he says, while vowing to “guard freedom of worship for all faiths.”
Fresh clashes break out Monday between Palestinians and police near the mosque compound ahead of a planned march on Jerusalem Day, which commemorates Israel’s unification of the city in 1967.
Hundreds of people throw projectiles at the Israeli security forces, who respond with stun grenades, tear gas, and rubber bullets.
The UN Security Council is due to hold a closed-door meeting on the violence later in the day.