Dozens of Palestinians have been injured in Israeli police crackdown on protesters outside the Old City of Jerusalem as tens of thousands of Muslim worshippers prayed at the nearby Al-Aqsa Mosque on Islam’s holy night of Laylat al-Qadr.
At least 90 people were injured on Saturday, the Palestine Red Crescent said, a day after Israeli forces stormed Al-Aqsa and injured more than 200 Palestinians. Israeli police said at least one officer was hurt.
Israeli security forces on horseback and in riot gear deployed stun grenades and water cannon against Palestinian youth who threw stones, lit fires and tore down police barricades in the streets leading to the walled Old City gates.
Tensions have mounted in the city, the occupied West Bank and Gaza throughout the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, amid growing anger about the potential eviction of Palestinians from East Jerusalem homes on land claimed by Jewish settlers.
Israeli border guards have, during the past few days, used skunk water, tear gas, rubber-coated bullets and shock grenades to disperse sit-ins held in support of the families facing eviction in the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood.
At least 205 Palestinians and 18 Israeli officers were injured in Friday’s confrontations, which drew international condemnations and calls for calm.
The four members of the Middle East Quartet – the US, Russia, the EU and the UN – have expressed “deep concern” over the violence in Jerusalem.
“We are alarmed by the provocative statements made by some political groups, as well as the launching of rockets and the resumption of incendiary balloons from Gaza towards Israel, and attacks on Palestinian farmland in the West Bank,” the envoys said in a statement on Saturday.
“The Envoys noted with serious concern the possible evictions of Palestinian families from homes they have lived in for generations… and voice opposition to unilateral actions, which will only escalate the already tense environment.
“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.”
Medics reported that at least 64 Palestinians have now been wounded in the latest confrontations with Israeli security forces in East Jerusalem – mostly by rubber bullets, stun grenades or beatings.
The wounded include minors and a one-year-old, and 11 people were taken to hospital, the Palestinian Red Crescent said.
Israeli police said at least one officer was hurt.
An estimated 90,000 people gathered for nighttime Laylat al-Qadr prayers at Al-Aqsa, the third-holiest site in Islam.
Laylat al-Qadr or the “Night of Destiny”, prayers are considered the most sacred.
The Palestinian Red Crescent says 53 Palestinians have been injured in East Jerusalem on Saturday night.
Al Jazeera’s Harry Fawcett, reporting from Damascus Gate in East Jerusalem, said there had been a “repeated cycle of clashes and calm” in the area between Palestinian protesters throwing plastic bottles and Israeli security forces deploying stun grenades and foul-smelling skunk water.
“We have also seen some running scuffles, with people being dragged to the ground and beaten [by police] – not being arrested, but sent on their way.”
At least 53 Palestinians have so far been injured by Israeli police in East Jerusalem on Saturday night, says the Palestinian Red Crescent. https://t.co/DJH18GxYbu
— Arwa Ibrahim (@arwaib) May 8, 2021
Mohammed el-Kurd, a Palestinian resident of Sheikh Jarrah, has shared footage of Israeli police violently dispersing a sit-in by Palestinian protesters in the neighbourhood.
In one video, a group of policemen is seen destroying tents and pushing people away from the protest site. Another clip showed an officer violently dragging a Palestinian woman along the road.
Israeli forces have gone mad in Sheikh Jarrah, beating everyone in sight, demolishing the solidarity tents, using excessive force… Impunity breeds fascism.
— mohammed el-kurd (@m7mdkurd) May 8, 2021
While the Occupation forces continue to assault, and arrest Palestinians at Damascus Gate & Al-Aqsa Mosque, they suppress and brutalize the protesters in Sheikh Jarrah. #JerusalemRevolts pic.twitter.com/UTPWTlTvx2
— mohammed el-kurd (@m7mdkurd) May 8, 2021
An emergency Arab League meeting scheduled for Monday is unlikely to produce any change in Israel’s behaviour unless Arab states, notably those that have normalised relations with Israel, decide to take meaningful action, said Marwan Bishara, Al Jazeera’s senior political analyst.
“Unless the Arab League does take some serious initiative, including putting some of those states that normalise relations with Israel on notice, unless some of those Arab countries use their leverage, whether it’s diplomatic or other, with Israel, I think we will see simply more statements,” Bishara said.
“Statements that are perhaps loud in denunciations and condemnation, but very short or low on actionable leverage in terms of forcing Israel, or its allies, not only the United States, to act in order to stop the repressions of Palestinians in Jerusalem.”
Israeli police have used rubber-coated bullets and skunk water to disperse protesters in Jerusalem’s Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood, an Al Jazeera correspondent said.
Hundreds of protesters are currently gathered in the vicinity of Othman bin Afan street, where Palestinian families threatened with evictions live, the correspondent added.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has condemned the raid by Israeli police on the Al-Aqsa Mosque in occupied East Jerusalem on Friday.
“We strongly condemn Israel’s heinous attacks against our first qibla #AlAqsaMosque, that are unfortunately being carried out every Ramadan,” Erdogan wrote on Twitter.
We strongly condemn Israel's heinous attacks against our first qibla #AlAqsaMosque, that are unfortunately being carried out every Ramadan.
As Turkey, we will continue to stand by our Palestinian brothers and sisters in all circumstances.
— Recep Tayyip Erdoğan (@RTErdogan) May 8, 2021
US Senator Bernie Sanders in a tweet on Saturday called on the US government to make clear its stance against the eviction of Palestinian families in Jerusalem’s Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood.
The United States must speak out strongly against the violence by government-allied Israeli extremists in East Jerusalem and the West Bank, and make clear that the evictions of Palestinian families must not go forward.
— Bernie Sanders (@SenSanders) May 8, 2021
Although Sheikh Jarrah makes up just a tiny part of occupied East Jerusalem, the area is a major source of tension between Palestinians and Israelis.
A recent order to evict Palestinian families has triggered days of protests.
Despite international calls for restraint, the protests are intensifying. So why is the Sheikh Jarrah dispute so contentious?
Click here to learn more.
An Arab Israeli NGO has called on senior Israeli officials to order security forces to halt their “violent incursions” into the Al-Aqsa Mosque and refrain from using excessive force against Palestinian worshippers and medical personnel.
In a letter to Israeli Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit and Israeli Police Commissioner Kobi Shabtai, lawyer Wesam Sharaf of Adalah, the Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, said the incursions endangered the lives of worshippers, and violated their right to freedom of worship.
“The [Israeli police’s] dispersal of prayer sessions using excessive force and disproportionate and abusive means constitutes a grave violation of the constitutional right of worshippers to freedom of worship, in a manifestly disproportionate manner,” Sharaf said.
During the past several years, US Congresswoman Betty McCollum has tried to spur a debate in the US about the billions of dollars Washington sends to Israel each year.
The Democrat from Minnesota wants to know more about where the money is going, and to ensure that Israel is not using US military assistance to commit human rights abuses against Palestinians.
Last month, McCollum introduced her latest bill, which aims to get guarantees that US aid is not used in abuses against Palestinian children, the destruction of Palestinian property, the removal of Palestinians from the occupied West Bank, or Israel’s attempts to further annex Palestinian land.
Read more here.
These horrific attacks on Palestinian worshippers come as the Israeli military plan to evict more than 500 Palestinians from their homes in the illegally occupied East Jerusalem.
— Zarah Sultana MP (@zarahsultana) May 8, 2021
Israel’s national police chief announced that he was beefing up forces in Jerusalem before expected disturbances in the coming days following Friday’s protests.
Incredible sight: Thousands of Palestinian citizens in Israel make way on foot to Al-Aqsa after Israeli police blocked their buses. Tonight is the Night of Kadir, one of the holiest nights in Islam. The Israeli police are working hard again to cause chaos. pic.twitter.com/GN06QmZ4JJ
— Louis Fishman لوي فيشمان לואי פישמן (@Istanbultelaviv) May 8, 2021
Thousands of Palestinians were expected to return to Al-Aqsa Mosque after dark fell for the sacred Muslim night of Laylat al-Qadr.
Television footage showed buses of Muslim worshippers from Israeli Arab cities being stopped by police on the main highway to Jerusalem.
Word of the roadblock spread on social media, drawing hundreds of young men from nearby Arab villages and Jerusalem.