East Jerusalem was on edge just after midnight on Saturday as Palestinians faced off with Israeli police in nightly Ramadan clashes that sparked rocket fire by militants in the Gaza Strip and protests in Palestinian towns across the occupied West Bank.
Tension is higher than usual in the holy city following protests on Thursday by Palestinian youth angered with curbs on gathering during the Muslim holy month and by Israelis enraged by recent Palestinian street attacks on religious Jews.
Police mostly succeeded in keeping the demonstrators apart on Thursday, with many of the far-right Israeli participants chanting “Death to Arabs”.
But the arrests and injuries raised tensions that spilled over into Friday night and early Saturday, when Palestinian youths again gathered outside the walled Old City and scuffled with hundreds of police in riot gear.
Palestinians pelted stones towards police firing water cannons. Others hurled rocks at an Israeli court building and smashed security cameras.
The Palestine Red Crescent said eight Palestinians had been injured Friday night in clashes with police, with two taken to hospital for treatment.
Jerusalem is at the core of the Israeli-Palestian conflict. Israel claims the whole city, including its eastern sector captured in a 1967 war, as its capital. Palestinians seek to make East Jerusalem capital of a future state in the West Bank and Gaza.
Three rockets were fired from the Gaza Strip towards Israel on Friday night, Israel’s military said, soon after Gaza’s Islamist rulers Hamas and other militants there issued a joint call for Palestinian resistance in Jerusalem.
Two of the rockets exploded near the Israel-Gaza frontier, the military said, and the third was intercepted by Israel’s Iron Dome system. There were no reports of injuries.
In the West Bank, Palestinian youth clashed with Israeli troops around military checkpoints near multiple West Bank cities.
Clashes and incidents of violence have occurred nightly in Jerusalem – a city holy to Muslims, Christians and Jews – since the start of Ramadan on April 13.
Palestinians say police have tried to prevent them from holding their usual Ramadan evening gatherings outside Damascus Gate by erecting metal barriers in its amphitheatre-style plaza.
Israelis have been incensed by videos on social media showing Palestinian youth striking or otherwise assaulting religious Jews in the city.
Photo: Israeli police detain a Palestinian man during clashes between Palestinian and Israeli police next to the Damascus gate of Jerusalem’s old city. EPA-EFE/ATEF SAFADI