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 clashes with Israeli security forces in East Jerusalem – mostly by rubber bullets, stun grenades or beatings.
The wounded includes 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.
Israeli police detain a Palestinian during clashes at Damascus Gate on Laylat al-Qadr during the holy month of Ramadan, in Jerusalem’s Old City [Ronen Zvulun/Reuters]
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,” are the most sacred prayers.
The Palestinian Red Crescent has said 53 Palestinians have been injured in clashes with Israeli police 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.”
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.
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 Ben Afan street, where Palestinian families threatened with evictions live, the correspondent added.