More arrests in Jerusalem as rockets fired from Gaza

Developments come as confrontations between Israeli police and Palestinians continue in occupied East Jerusalem.

Palestinians in Gaza City chant slogans as they burn tyres during a rally in support of demonstrators in Jerusalem [Mahmud Hams/AFP]

Rocket fire from the besieged Gaza Strip towards Israel resumed after a daylong pause despite calls for calm from the United Nations and threats by Israeli leaders to retaliate fiercely.

The move came as confrontations between Israeli police and Palestinians continued in occupied East Jerusalem.

The Israeli military said it intercepted a rocket fired from the strip by its air defences late on Saturday. It came a day after Israel launched air attacks targeting Hamas positions, which the Israeli army said was in response to rocket fire.

On Saturday, armed groups in the Gaza Strip fired three dozen rockets into Israel, while the Israeli military struck back at targets operated by Hamas, the group that governs Gaza.

Hamas did not claim responsibility for the rockets, but Israel considers the group responsible for all fire emanating from the territory.

Also on Saturday, confrontations between hundreds of Palestinians and Israeli police in Jerusalem led to six injuries and arrests.

At least 10 Palestinians were detained in overnight raids in Jerusalem and the nearby occupied West Bank city of Bethlehem, where confrontations also took place, Palestinian news agency Maan reported.

‘Dangerous brew’

Al Jazeera’s Harry Fawcett, reporting from West Jerusalem, said there was a “dangerous brew of factors” that have fuelled this so far, and risk heightening it further towards a bigger escalation involving “other parts of the region”, referring to the Gaza Strip.

Confrontations between Palestinians and the Israeli police have occurred on a nightly basis since the start of Ramadan. They were ignited when police placed barricades outside the Old City’s Damascus Gate, a popular gathering place after the end of the daytime Ramadan fast.

Confrontations intensified on Thursday over the ban on gatherings and anger fuelled by videos of attacks.

Armed Israeli police detain a Palestinian protester in Jerusalem’s Old City [Ahmad Gharbali/AFP]

At least 100 Palestinians have been wounded in the violence, according to the Palestinian Red Crescent.

Tensions were also fuelled by the arrival of far-right Israeli Jewish groups at the end of a march, at which they harassed Palestinians and chanted “death to Arabs”.

The sprawling hilltop compound has seen clashes on a number of occasions over the years and was the epicentre of the 2000 Palestinian Intifada, or uprising.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he held talks with top security officials about Gaza and Jerusalem. He said he instructed officials to be ready for “every scenario” in Gaza.

In Jerusalem, Netanyahu said Israel would guarantee “freedom of worship” for everyone, and he appealed for calm. “We ask now for people to obey the law and I call for a calming of tempers on all sides.”

‘Exercise maximum restraint’

The UN envoy to the region, Tor Wennesland, condemned the violence and said the UN was working with all sides to restore calm.

“The provocative acts across Jerusalem must cease. The indiscriminate launching of rockets towards Israeli population centres violates international law and must stop immediately,” he said. “I reiterate my call upon all sides to exercise maximum restraint and avoid further escalation, particularly during the Holy month of Ramadan and this politically charged time for all.”

Meanwhile, top Israeli general Aviv Kochavi is weighing “a series of steps for possible responses” if the situation continues to escalate, the military said in a statement.

The United States also appealed for calm while neighbouring Jordan, which serves as the custodian for Jerusalem’s Muslim holy sites, condemned Israel’s actions.

The Palestinian leadership wants East Jerusalem to be the capital of their future state. Its fate has been one of the thorniest issues in the peace process, which ground to a halt more than 10 years ago.

Hamas staged demonstrations across Gaza after prayers on Friday in solidarity with Palestinians in Jerusalem. The group’s armed wing warned Israel “not to test” its patience.

The impoverished and densely populated Gaza Strip has been under a crippling Israeli blockade since 2007, after Hamas took over the coastal enclave.

Hamas and Israel reached an agreement at the end of September last year to cease hostilities, although attacks have continued.

Hamas has accused Israel of not fully complying with the deal. Israel, which deems Hamas a “terrorist” organisation, shuns direct negotiations and has never publicly acknowledged the truce.

Israel has launched three offensives against the Gaza Strip since 2008, and there have been numerous flare-ups.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies