Quartet expresses concern over Jerusalem clashes, Arabs condemn Israel

Scores of more wounded in new Jerusalem clashes.
Sunday 09/05/2021
A Palestinian protester hurls stones at Israeli security forces in Jerusalem’s Old City on May 8, 2021. (AFP)
A Palestinian protester hurls stones at Israeli security forces in Jerusalem’s Old City on May 8, 2021. (AFP)

JERUSALEM--Scores of people were injured Saturday as Israeli police fired water cannon and rubber bullets to disperse Palestinian protesters in annexed east Jerusalem, a day after fierce clashes at the city’s Al-Aqsa mosque.

The fresh violence, a day after more than 200 people were wounded at the mosque, prompted international calls for an end to the violence.

Police said they dispersed the rally in the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood where demonstrators had thrown stones at security forces.

Officials said Sunday a rocket had been fired from the Gaza Strip, with the Israel Defence Forces responding by striking a “military target” in the south. Earlier, officers had fired tear gas towards protesters on the border.

In Jerusalem, police said they made three arrests for attacks on officers, while Palestinians reported 13 other arrests earlier in the day.

The Palestinian Red Crescent reported 90 people were wounded in Saturday’s clashes in Jerusalem, revising up their earlier estimate of 53.

AFP journalists in Jerusalem said Israeli riot police had fired rubber bullets, sound grenades and water cannon on Palestinians Saturday, some of whom threw projectiles at the police. One officer received a head injury, said police.

On Friday, riot police stormed Al-Aqsa mosque compound, after they said Palestinians threw rocks and fireworks at officers.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu defended the police actions.

“Israel is acting responsibly to ensure respect for law and order in Jerusalem while allowing freedom of worship,” he said in a meeting of security officials.

The violence was the worst in years at Al-Aqsa, Islam’s third-holiest site after Mecca and Medina, located on the site Jews revere as the Temple Mount.

Arab-Israelis’ solidarity 

Palestinians have held nightly protests in Sheikh Jarrah against an attempt by Israeli settlers to take over Arab homes.

On Saturday, protesters chanted, waved Palestinian flags and threw stones before police moved in.

Dozens of Arab Israeli protesters also gathered across Israel in solidarity with Sheikh Jarrah residents, holding up signs that read “the occupation is terrorism”.

A reporter for Israeli public TV tweeted footage of a Jewish driver whose car was attacked with stones and windows shattered at the entrance to Sheikh Jarrah Saturday.

A Palestinian national flag is erected on the Israel-Gaza border, east of Khan Yunis town in the southern Gaza Strip on May 8, 2021. (AFP)
A Palestinian national flag is erected on the Israel-Gaza border, east of Khan Yunis town in the southern Gaza Strip on May 8, 2021. (AFP)

Police blocked buses filled with Arabs headed for Jerusalem from northern Israel, saying they would not be allowed “to participate in violent riots”.

Instead, hundreds marched on highways leading to the city.

Thousands of worshippers stayed on at Al-Aqsa on Saturday for Laylat al-Qadr (Night of Destiny), a peak of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

The militant Islamist movement Hamas, which rules Gaza, urged Palestinians to remain at Al-Aqsa until Ramadan ends, warning that “the resistance is ready to defend Al-Aqsa at any cost”.

Outside the Damascus Gate entrance to Jerusalem’s Old City, Palestinians set fire to a barricade before police on horseback dispersed the protesters.

Arab reactions 

The Al-Aqsa clashes drew sharp rebukes across the Arab and Muslim world.

“Saudi Arabia rejects Israel’s plans and measures to evict dozens of Palestinians from their homes in Jerusalem and impose Israeli sovereignty over them,” the kingdom’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement carried on Saudi-owned Al Arabiya.

The UAE, which normalised relations with Israel last year, “strongly condemned” the clashes and the potential evictions, in a statement by the UAE’s Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Khalifa al-Marar, and urged Israeli authorities to reduce tensions.

In the statement, carried by state news agency WAM, Marar stressed “the need for Israeli authorities to assume their responsibilities – in line with international law – to provide necessary protection to Palestinian civilians’ right to practice their religion, and to prevent practices that violate the sanctity of the Holy Al-Aqsa Mosque”.

Jordan condemned Israel’s “barbaric attack” and Egypt, Turkey, Tunisia, Pakistan and Qatar were among Muslim countries that blasted Israeli forces for the confrontation.

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan denounced Israel as a “cruel terrorist state” in a speech in Ankara Saturday, calling on the United Nations to intervene to “stop the persecution”.

Iran called on the United Nations to condemn the Israeli police actions, arguing that “this war crime once again proved to the world the criminal nature of the illegitimate Zionist regime”.

Tensions are expected to remain high in Jerusalem.

Israel’s supreme court is to hold a new hearing in the Sheikh Jarrah case on Monday, when Israelis mark Jerusalem Day to celebrate the “liberation” of the city.

 ‘Extreme concern’ 

The Quartet of envoys from the European Union, Russia, the United States and the United Nations expressed “deep concern” over the violence.

“We call upon Israeli authorities to exercise restraint,” they wrote.

The United States — an Israeli ally whose tone has toughened under US President Joe Biden — said it was “extremely concerned” and urged both sides to “avoid steps that exacerbate tensions or take us farther away from peace”.

“This includes evictions in east Jerusalem, settlement activity, home demolitions and acts of terrorism,” the State Department said.

The European Union called on the authorities “to act urgently to de-escalate the current tensions,” saying “violence and incitement are unacceptable and the perpetrators on all sides must be held accountable”.

Russia voiced “deep concern”, calling the expropriation of land and property in the occupied Palestinian territories including east Jerusalem “a violation of international law”.

Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas said he held the Israeli government responsible for the unrest and voiced “full support for our heroes in Al-Aqsa”.

Yair Lapid, an Israeli politician attempting to form a coalition government to replace Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, backed the police.

“The state of Israel will not let violence run loose and definitely will not allow terror groups to threaten it,” he tweeted.