Over 120 wounded in east Jerusalem clashes

Jerusalem (AFP) –


Over 100 Palestinians and 20 Israeli police were wounded in overnight clashes in annexed east Jerusalem, authorities said Friday, as tensions mount over a ban on gatherings and videos of attacks on youths.

The violence flared outside one of the entrances to the walled Old City, after police had barred access to some areas where Palestinians usually gather in large numbers during the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan.

Tensions were fuelled by the arrival of far-right Jews at the end of a march during which they harassed Palestinians and chanted "death to Arabs".

There have been nightly disturbances in the area since the start of Ramadan on April 13, with Palestinians outraged over police blocking access to the promenade around the walls, a popular gathering place after the end of the daytime Ramadan fast.

Police said that after night prayers at Al-Aqsa mosque in the Old City "hundreds of rioters began disrupting the order violently, including throwing stones and objects at forces".

Stun grenades were fired and water cannon deployed to disperse the "rioters" and force them towards less central areas of east Jerusalem, police said.

Police said officers attempted to "distinguish between them and those who finished prayers" and were not involved in the events.

The Palestinian Red Crescent said on Friday it had treated at least 105 people, with about 20 of them hospitalised.

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

- 'War zone' -

"It was like a war zone; it was dangerous," a Palestinian who was near the clashes outside the Old City told AFP. "That's why I left the place."

Tensions have been high in Jerusalem after a series of videos posted online in recent days showing young Arabs attacking ultra-Orthodox Jews and Jewish extremists taking to the street to bully Arabs in nightly confrontations.

On Thursday night, the Israeli extreme right group Lehava organised a march ending opposite the Old City attended by hundreds to protest the anti-Jewish violence.

Police erected barriers to keep them from entering the mainly Arab location.

The Palestinian presidency meanwhile condemned "the growing incitement by extremist far-right Israeli settler groups advocating for the killing of Arabs, which in recent days manifested in a wave of attacks against Palestinian civilians in the Old City."

A statement late Thursday on the official Palestinian news agency Wafa urged the international community to protect Palestinians from the "settler" attacks, which it alleged were encouraged by the Israeli government.

Videos on social media also showed Palestinians attacking ultra-Orthodox Jews in the early hours of Friday, with reports of Israeli vehicles being stoned in and near east Jerusalem.

Police reported "a number of incidents overnight in which civilians were attacked, some of whom needed medical treatment."

Jerusalem mayor Moshe Lion said he tried to cancel the Lehava march, but police told him it was legal, noting that "dozens" of Jews who attacked Arabs had been arrested in the past two weeks.

Speaking with public broadcaster Kan, Lion said he was in talks with leaders of the Palestinian east Jerusalem neighbourhoods "to end this pointless violence".

More than 50 people detained overnight were taken for a remand hearing on Friday morning, a statement from police said.