Eight Palestinians arrested as tensions flare at Jerusalem's Damascus Gate

The gateway is frequently used by Muslims to reach Al Aqsa Mosque in the Old City

Israeli police arrested eight Palestinians at Jerusalem’s Damascus Gate on Monday, as tensions flared with security forces deployed to the plaza where Muslims traditionally meet during Ramadan.

Hundreds of Palestinians have gathered nightly around the ancient steps which lead to the Old City, in occupied East Jerusalem, since Ramadan began on Saturday.

Eight suspects were arrested Monday for “disturbing public order and throwing things at the police,” the force said in a statement.

Some plastic bottles were thrown towards a lookout post above Damascus Gate, where security forces were stationed in full riot gear. Fireworks also went off near the lookout.

The plaza was the scene of some of the worst clashes in years between Israeli security forces and Palestinians last Ramadan, which left scores wounded during the Muslim holy month.

Protests erupted a year ago when Israeli authorities prevented people from gathering at Damascus Gate, which is one of the few communal spaces available to Palestinians in East Jerusalem.

The gateway is also used by many Muslims to reach Al Aqsa Mosque, the third holiest site in Islam.

This year the plaza remains open and crowds of Palestinians gather there each evening, surrounded by vendors and under lights strung up for the holy month.

Israel, which has occupied East Jerusalem since the 1967 Arab-Israeli war, has deployed dozens of heavily-armed police officers to the Damascus Gate area this Ramadan.

Medics said several people were injured on Monday night in clashes between Israeli forces and Palestinians, while police said 10 people were arrested.

Israeli security forces gather outside the Damascus Gate in Jerusalem's Old City on Monday. AFP

Renewed tensions in Jerusalem follow a spate of killings in Israel and the occupied West Bank.

Eleven people were killed last month in three attacks in Israel, which were carried out by Arab-Israelis and one Palestinian from the West Bank. The assailants were shot dead.

Since Thursday, Israeli forces have killed six Palestinians in the West Bank.

While skirmishes in Jerusalem are less violent than the first few days of Ramadan last year, there are concerns the situation could deteriorate.

Protests and clashes across East Jerusalem a year ago culminated in a devastating 11-day war between Gaza militants and Israel.

Jordan, which serves as custodian of Al Aqsa Mosque, has pushed Israel to guarantee freedom of worship during the holy Muslim month.

King Abdullah of Jordan said Israel must prevent "provocations that could lead to escalation", during a meeting last week with Israeli Defence Minister Benny Gantz.

Updated: April 05, 2022, 2:05 PM
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