Israeli police fire plastic bullets and sound bombs wounding at least 10 more unarmed Palestinians in occupied East Jerusalem, as Arab nations, including signatories of Abraham Accords, hit out at Israel over ongoing violence.
Tensions are running high in occupied East Jerusalem after hundreds of unarmed Palestinian civilians were wounded by Israeli forces over the weekend, provoking global condemnation and concerns that the unrest could spread further.
On Sunday, at least 10 more Palestinian civilians were wounded after Israeli police fired plastic bullets and sound bombs at them after dawn prayer.
The unarmed Palestinians were targeted after hundreds of them gathered between Masjid al Qiblatain and the Dome of the Rock Mosque inside the flashpoint compound and unfurled Palestine and Hamas flags. Hamas governs the besieged Gaza enclave.
They chanted slogans including “We are all Sheikh Jarrah” before marching towards Al Aqsa’s Lion Gate and Bab Hutta Gate.
Transfers of some of the wounded to the hospital were delayed due to the police closing the Lion Gate to entries and exits for a short time, the Palestinian Red Crescent said.
A plastic bullet hit the mouth of one of the wounded, severely hurting his jaw, it added.
Israeli police also detained some Palestinian youth.
According to an Anadolu Agency photojournalist at the scene, Israeli police, who were waiting outside the two gates, fired plastic bullets and sound bombs at the congregation leaving the compound.
Brutal aggression at Al Aqsa
The brutal violence by Israeli forces around occupied Jerusalem’s revered Al Aqsa Mosque compound and the Old City, mostly at night, is the worst since 2017, fuelled by a years-long bid by illegal Jewish settlers to take over Palestinian homes in occupied East Jerusalem.
Some 100 Palestinians were wounded on Saturday, many hit by rubber bullets and stun grenades fired by Israeli forces, the Palestinian Red Crescent said.
The previous night more than 220 people, again mostly Palestinians, were wounded after Israeli police stormed Al Aqsa, Islam’s third holiest religious site.
Violence by Israel on holiest night
Saturday’s Laylat al Qadr (Night of Destiny) was a peak of the holy fasting month, believed to be the night when the holy Quran was revealed to the Prophet Mohammed.
Thousands of Palestinians packed Al Aqsa Mosque compound to hold special Ramadan prayers.
Israeli police set up roadblocks saying it wanted to limit access to the Old City, effectively preventing hundreds more from joining the prayers.
A bus heading to occupied East Jerusalem was stopped and some Palestinians were detained for questioning by police, an AFP reporter said, while hundreds of Palestinians marched on highways to the Old City.
“They want to stop us from going to Al Aqsa,” said Ali al Komani, 40, outside the holy site.
The prayers at Al Aqsa were held peacefully, but protests flared elsewhere in East Jerusalem, in the West Bank and on the border between the blockaded Gaza and Israel, correspondents said.
Israeli mounted police deployed outside Damascus Gate, a key access point to the Old City of Jerusalem, as agents fired stun grenades at Palestinians.
Police said they detained nine people for “disrupting public order” and warned that “all means will be used to maintain calm.”
Sheikh Jarrah evictions
On Sunday, Israel’s Justice Ministry said it would delay a key Monday hearing in a case that could see Palestinian families evicted from their homes in Sheikh Jarrah.
“In all the circumstances and in light of the attorney general’s request, the regular hearing for tomorrow, May 10, 2021 (is) cancelled,” it said in a statementfj, adding it would schedule a new hearing within 30 days.
Palestinians in Jerusalem in recent days have protested in solidarity with residents of the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood.
Protests came as the Israeli Central Court in East Jerusalem approved a decision to evict seven Palestinian families from their homes in favour of illegal Israeli settlers at the beginning of this year.
Police fired stun grenades and water cannon at protesting Palestinian civilians.
Khaled Meshaal, the head of Hamas’ diaspora office, described the eviction in Sheikh Jarrah by Israeli authorities as “ethnic cleansing.”
“What’s happening in Sheikh Jarrah is ethnic cleansing by expelling families that have a history in this neighbourhood,” Meshaal told an event in Morocco.
The Hamas leader said Jerusalem will never surrender to the “Zionist invaders.”
Calls for UNSC session
On Sunday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “firmly rejected” pressure not to build in occupied Jerusalem, following international condemnation of planned evictions of Palestinians from homes.
“Israel is acting responsibly to ensure respect for law and order in Jerusalem while allowing freedom of worship,” Netanyahu said.
Tunisia asked for holding a UN Security Council session on Monday to discuss Israeli escalation in the Palestinian territories, particularly the occupied East Jerusalem.
In a statement, the Tunisian Foreign Ministry said the request to hold a UN Security Council session was coordinated with Palestine and backed by China, the current chair of the council, Norway, Ireland, Vietnam, Saint Vincent, The Grenadines and Niger.
The statement said the session will discuss “Israel’s dangerous escalation and hostile practices in the occupied Palestinian territories, particularly Jerusalem, and its violations in Al Aqsa Mosque.”
According to the statement, the Tunisian request called for deliberations on the Israeli attacks on the Palestinians, its settlement plans, home demolitions and eviction of Palestinian families from their homes.
‘Barbaric attack’ condemned
The violence by Israeli forces has sparked international calls for calm, as Israel defended its actions.
On Sunday, Pope Francis called for an end to the violence.
“Violence only generates violence. Let’s stop these clashes,” he said. “I pray so that this might (Jerusalem) be a place of encounter and not violent clashes, a place of prayer and of peace.”
The Middle East quartet of envoys from the European Union, Russia, the United States and the United Nations expressed “deep concern” and called for restraint.
The United States urged both sides to “avoid steps that exacerbate tensions …”
Russia said the expropriation of land and property in the occupied Palestinian territories including occupied East Jerusalem is “a violation of international law.”
Arab and Muslim countries decried the unrest, with Jordan, the custodian of holy sites in East Jerusalem, condemning Israel’s “barbaric attack”.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas voiced “full support for our heroes in Al Aqsa”, and his rivals in Hamas warned that “the resistance is ready to defend Al Aqsa at any cost.”
Abraham Accord signatories express anger
Arab countries, including four that last year agreed to normalise ties with Israel, also condemned the Israeli violence.
Criticism of Israeli conduct poured in from Sudan, Morocco, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain –– all nations that last year agreed to normalise, or normalised, relations with the Jewish state.
Khartoum labelled Israeli measures in occupied Jerusalem against Palestinians as “repression”, and “coercive action” in a Foreign Ministry statement late on Saturday.
It called on the Israeli government “to refrain from taking unilateral steps that diminish the chances for resuming peace negotiations.”
The UAE and Bahrain condemned the storming of Al Aqsa Mosque by Israeli security forces, and the ensuing crackdown on worshippers seeking to access the site.
Abu Dhabi urged Israeli authorities to “take responsibility for de-escalation” of violence at the holy site, while Manama called on the Israeli government “to stop these rejected provocations against the people of Jerusalem.”
Meanwhile, Morocco expressed “deep concern” over the violence saying King Mohammed VI “considers these violations … likely to fuel tensions.”
Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Ministry said it “rejected” Israeli plans to evacuate Palestinian households from East Jerusalem, and called for the reinstatement of the pre-1967 borders.
Israel occupied East Jerusalem during the Six-Day War of 1967 and later annexed it, in a move not recognised by most of the international community.