Hundreds of Palestinians were wounded in fighting with Israeli police and military in Jerusalem on Saturday night and Sunday morning, during street clashes around the city and the West Bank sparked by concerns over forced evictions in east Jerusalem.
On Saturday night, a large number of worshippers gathered at al-Aqsa Mosque at the night when Muslims believe the Quran was first unveiled to the Prophet Mohammed. After they prayed at the mosque, clashes erupted at Damascus Gate on Saturday.
Next day, tensions simmered on the Temple Mount between Palestinians and Israeli troops, resulting in the closure of at least one of the compound’s walls. Ten people were injured. Street protests were also reported near Hebron’s Cave of the Patriarchs, with Palestinian media video footage showing stun grenades being fired into crowds.
The Al-Aqsa mosque building in Jerusalem is one of Islam’s holiest sites, but it also happens to be the holiest spot of Judaism, known as the Temple Mount. The complex is a regular hotspot for aggression, but Friday’s outburst was one of the most severe in recent years.
After mass demonstrations and the thwarting of a “major attack” dominated the end of Ramadan in Jerusalem and the West Bank over the weekend, the IDF and police expanded their presence in the city.
During the fighting on Saturday night, at least 90 Palestinians were wounded, with over 20 of them being taken to hospitals for further care. They were mostly injured by rubber bullets, stun grenades and beatings. Israeli security forces, according to the Palestinian Red Crescent, blocked ambulances from approaching the Damascus Gate area to treat the injured.
“They do not want us to pray. There is a fight every day, every day there are clashes. Every day there are troubles,” said Mahmoud al-Marbua, 27, one of the worshipers.
However, the Israeli police Chief Kobi Shabtai said, “Israel Police is constantly working to enable freedom of worship and maintain order and security. At the same time, we will not allow violent riots, law breaking and harming police officers. We ask everyone to de-escalate the violence, especially on such an important day for the Islamic religion.”
From the United States to the United Arab Emirates, international criticism and appeals for peace have been made in response to the attack. United States’ Department also called on both sides to “avoid steps that exacerbate tensions”. The European Union, Russia, and the United Nations – voiced “deep concern” about the escalating conflict on Saturday.
“We call upon Israeli authorities to exercise restraint and to avoid measures that would further escalate the situation during this period of Muslim Holy Days,” they said, insisting that “all leaders have a responsibility to act against extremists and to speak out against all acts of violence and incitement.”
Jordan, also denounced Israeli Special Forces and police conduct, calling the attacks against the mosque and worshippers “barbaric” in a government statement. Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, denounced Israel’s “sinful attacks” in a statement.
As the result of several days of fighting and riots, the Israeli Justice Ministry announced that the trial of the eviction of Palestinian families is going to be postponed.
“In all the circumstances and in light of the attorney general’s request, the regular hearing for tomorrow, May 10, 2021, is canceled,” the Justice ministry said in a statement. More information will be available within 30 days.