Tensions high in East Jerusalem after clashes

Israeli police confronted Palestinian protesters and Jewish far-right marchers on Thursday night

Streets are set ablaze as members of the Israeli security forces deploy during clashes with Palestinian protesters outside the Damascus Gate in Jerusalem's Old City on April 22, 2021.  / AFP / AHMAD GHARABLI
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Tension are running high in East Jerusalem after Israeli police clashed with Palestinians outside the Old City on Thursday and Jewish extremists tried to stage a march to the area.

The city is home to sites sacred to Jews, Christians and Muslims, including the Al Aqsa mosque – the third-holiest site in Islam, and has long been a flashpoint for Israeli-Palestinian violence.

Police have clashed with Palestinians on a nightly basis since the start of Ramadan last week, when authorities set up barricades at Damascus Gate, a traditional outdoor gathering spot.

Members of the Israeli security forces stand guard as Jewish protesters gather outside the Damascus Gate in Jerusalem, April 22, 2021.  / AFP / AHMAD GHARABLI
Members of the Israeli security forces stand guard as Jewish protesters gather outside the Damascus Gate in Jerusalem on April 22, 2021. AFP

Police said protesters threw stones and bottles. Footage online showed police and hundreds of protesters running through the streets as the sound of either fireworks or stun grenades echoed in the background.

Police said three people were arrested.

The Palestinian Red Crescent said it treated at least 105 people, with about 20 of them taken to hospital.

Israeli police said 20 officers were wounded, three of whom were taken to hospital.

"Palestinians love to relax in this area after evening prayers at Al Aqsa mosque, but the occupation [Israel] doesn't like it. It's a matter of sovereignty," Jerusalem resident Mohammad Abu Al Homus told Reuters, pointing to the metal barricades put outside Damascus Gate.

The police did not say why they erected the barriers.

Meanwhile, a far-right Jewish group known as Lahava led a march towards Damascus Gate involving hundreds of protesters chanting "Arabs get out".

The show of force came in response to videos circulated on TikTok allegedly showing Palestinians slapping religious Jews at random. Other videos made in response to them appear to show Jews assaulting Arabs.

Police set up barricades a few hundred metres from Damascus Gate to keep the protesters apart.

Israel captured East Jerusalem, where the Old City is, in the 1967 war and annexed it in a move not recognised internationally. The Palestinians want East Jerusalem to be the capital of their future state.

Its status was one of the thorniest issues in the peace process, which ground to a halt more than a decade ago.