Hundreds wounded across Jerusalem in worst day of violence in years

And 20 people, including nine children, are killed in Israeli air strikes on Gaza

Hundreds of people were wounded at Jerusalem’s Al Aqsa Mosque compound on Monday as Israeli police stormed the third holiest site in Islam.

And 20 Palestinians, including nine children, were killed in Israeli air strikes in Gaza, after Hamas militants fired rockets into Jerusalem in response to the police action at Al Aqsa.

A rally by ultra-nationalist Jews in the city was temporarily halted by a siren, signalling the incoming rocket fire from Gaza.

There have been weeks of unrest in occupied East Jerusalem, with nightly clashes between Israeli police and Palestinian protesters.

Thousands of Muslims stayed overnight at Al Aqsa and on Monday morning Israeli police said they responded to hundreds of people throwing objects at officers from behind makeshift barricades.

At least 520 people were injured at the compound and around the city on Monday, including paramedics, the Palestinian Red Crescent Society said. Police said 32 officers were hurt.

Ahmad Abu Isnaynah, 22, was limping through the Old City and said he was the victim of heavy-handed police.

"They were firing at us as if they were on a rampage," Mr Isnaynah told The National.

"Stun grenades, bullets, everything. We were really scared. I was shot in the leg with rubber bullets. I can't walk properly now."{

The clashes came as Israelis celebrated Jerusalem Day, which commemorates their military’s capture of the eastern part of the city in 1967.

The occasion is usually marked by a march of flag-bearing Israelis through the Muslim Quarter of the Old City to the Western Wall.

"We're here just because it's Jerusalem Day, which [means that] 54 years ago we got back our capital city," said David Bernstein, 20, sitting with fellow Jewish Israelis beside the Old City walls in East Jerusalem.

"It's our area, not the eastern area. We're here every time we want."

There were widespread fears that the procession could spark a surge in violence around Damascus Gate, where last month more than 100 people were wounded when Jewish extremists, Israeli police and Palestinians clashed.

The Israeli police said thousands of officers had been posted in Jerusalem on Monday, while shopkeepers in the Muslim Quarter were told to close.

Wassim Hijazi, who runs a juice bar along the planned march route, said he would defy the order.

“I decided to open because we are a peaceful people here, we do not do anything," Mr Hijazi said.

"And settlers, they want to come into the Old City here, to Al Aqsa Mosque as well, so they are violent people.

"They want to destroy everything. So they should stop them, not close us, to stop that violence.”

In a last-minute change, Israeli authorities rerouted the march to avoid Damascus Gate and lorries were parked at the edge of West Jerusalem to block the participants’ access to the city’s eastern side.

As Israelis were waving their flags, a siren blared across the city warning of incoming rocket fire and two deep booms were heard in the distance.

The noise marked the start of an intense campaign by militants in Gaza, whose rulers Hamas gave Israel an ultimatum to withdraw its security forces from Al Aqsa Mosque compound and the city’s Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood.

More than 150 rockets were fired from Gaza, said the Israeli military, adding it responded by striking many Hamas targets.

As well as the 20 Palestinians killed in the strikes, 95 people were wounded, the Gaza Health Ministry said.

The rocket fire follows threats from Gaza militants to respond to Israel’s actions at Al Aqsa.

The latest violence at the site came two days after similar scenes left more than 200 civilians injured, Palestinian medics said, and 17 police officers.

Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh condemned the security forces’ actions at Al Asqa and called for Israel to face consequences.

“I hold the Israeli government fully responsible for what happened to the worshippers in Al Aqsa Mosque," he told the Palestinian news agency Wafa.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu threw his support behind the police.

“We insist on ensuring the rights of everyone," Mr Netanyahu said.

"This occasionally requires taking a strong stand, as the officers of the Israel police and our security forces are doing at the moment. We back them in this just struggle."

The UN Security Council met on Monday to discuss Jerusalem but failed to agree on a joint statement, with diplomats saying the US saw public comments as counter-productive.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken called on all sides to “de-escalate, reduce tension and take practical steps to calm things down".

Beyond Jerusalem’s Old City, there have been nightly clashes between Palestinians and police in Sheikh Jarrah.

The neighbourhood has had weeks of rallies in support of Palestinian residents, whose homes are set to be taken over by Israeli settlers.

Israel’s Supreme Court had been due to issue a ruling on the case on Monday, but delayed the hearing to avoid further inflaming the crisis.

All six Arab nations that have diplomatic ties with Israel – Egypt, Jordan, the UAE, Bahrain, Morocco and Sudan – have condemned Israel’s response to the situation in Jerusalem.

Updated: May 11, 2021 04:48 AM

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