April 23, 2021
Scores of people have been injured in clashes in East Jerusalem between far-right Jewish activists, Palestinians and Israeli police.
The violence erupted as police tried to keep Palestinians and ultra-nationalist Jewish protesters apart.
It follows nights of confrontations in the Israeli-occupied sector amid rising nationalist and religious tensions.
East Jerusalem has long been a flashpoint, with an uneasy coexistence there between Jews and Arabs.
Israel has occupied East Jerusalem since the 1967 Middle East war and considers the entire city its capital, though this is not recognised by the vast majority of the international community. Palestinians claim East Jerusalem as the future capital of a hoped-for independent state.
Police tried to keep the rival groups apart, detaining a number of protesters
The worst fighting in days broke out on Thursday night after hundreds of Jewish extremists from the ultra-nationalist Lehava group marched towards the Damascus Gate entrance of Jerusalem’s Old City – where large numbers of Palestinians had gathered – chanting “Death to Arabs”.
Stones and bottles were thrown between the two sides, and police used stun grenades, tear gas and water cannon to try to disperse the crowds.
The Palestinian Red Crescent said at least 100 Palestinians were injured, while police said 20 officers were hurt. More than 50 people were arrested.
Tensions in East Jerusalem have escalated since the start of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan on 13 April. Palestinians have clashed with police, accusing them of erecting barriers to stop them from congregating on steps outside Damascus Gate to break the daytime fast. Police say the measures are intended to help pedestrian flow into the Old City.
Jews have also been angered by a spate of TikTok videos showing Palestinians assaulting members of the ultra-Orthodox community, including an attack on two ultra-Orthodox boys on Jerusalem’s light rail. The videos were given as a reason by Lehava for its march to Damascus Gate, in what it said would be a show of “national honour”.
There have also been a number of attacks by Jews on Arabs in Jerusalem this week, including an incident where Jewish youth chanting anti-Arab slogans assaulted an Arab driver who stopped to remonstrate with them.