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JERUSALEM, May 10 — Israel vowed Sunday to restore order in Jerusalem after hundreds of Palestinian protesters were wounded in weekend clashes with Israeli security forces, as a key court hearing on a flashpoint property dispute was postponed.
The area around the revered Al-Aqsa mosque has seen several nights of violence, the worst since 2017, fuelled by a years-long bid by Jewish settlers to take over nearby Palestinian homes in Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem.
Israeli police again faced off against mostly young Palestinians at several locations in east Jerusalem late Sunday.
Police fired stun grenades and “skunk” water cannons spraying foul-smelling water at Palestinians outside the Old City’s Damascus Gate and scuffled with youths in the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood, amid other isolated flare ups across the area.
The Palestinian Red Crescent reported a total of seven injuries from Damascus Gate and Sheikh Jarrah, including four hospitalisations.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday defended Israel’s response to the protests and rioting in east Jerusalem.
“We will uphold law and order — vigorously and responsibly,” Netanyahu said ahead of a weekly cabinet meeting, while vowing to “guard freedom of worship for all faiths”.
But the Israeli role in the hostilities — especially Friday’s clashes at the Al-Aqsa mosque compound, Islam’s third holiest site — has met widespread criticism.
All six Arab nations that have diplomatic ties with Israel — Egypt, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Morocco and Sudan — have condemned the Jewish state over its weekend aggression at Al-Aqsa.
In Jordan, the custodian of Jerusalem’s holy Islamic and Christian sites, King Abdullah II issued a statement condemning “Israeli violations and escalatory practices at the blessed Al-Aqsa mosque”.
The Jordanian and Egyptian foreign ministries both summoned Israeli envoys on Sunday to lodge protests over the Al-Aqsa unrest.
Amid growing international calls for a de-escalation, Tunisia said the UN Security Council was to hold a closed-door meeting Monday, at its request, on the violence.
The Middle East quartet of envoys from the European Union, Russia, the United States and the UN — and Pope Francis — have all called for calm.
“Israeli authorities must exercise maximum restraint and respect the right to freedom of peaceful assembly,” the UN Secretary-General said late Sunday.
According to the Red Crescent, a total of more than 300 Palestinians were wounded on Friday and Saturday nights, some hit by rubber bullets and stun grenades.
The UN children’s agency Unicef said that over two days, 29 Palestinian children had been injured in east Jerusalem, including a one-year-old.
Eight Palestinian children have been arrested, it added.
Israeli police say they have been targeted with fireworks, rocks and other projectiles, causing several injuries.
Court case delayed
Weeks of unrest in east Jerusalem, which Palestinians claim as their future capital, has multiple causes.
But much of the recent violence stems from a long-running legal effort by Jewish settler groups to evict several Palestinians from their homes in Sheikh Jarrah.
A lower court ruling earlier this year backing the settlers’ decades-old claim to the plots infuriated Palestinians.
A Supreme Court hearing on a Palestinian appeal had been set for Monday, but the justice ministry said Sunday that in light of “all the circumstances” it would delay the hearing.
But Jerusalem remained on edge ahead of a march planned for Monday to commemorate Israel’s takeover of Jerusalem in the 1967 Six-Day War, an anniversary known as Jerusalem Day in the Jewish state.
Old City shopkeeper Mohammad said Israeli police told him he must close Monday afternoon, when Israeli Jews plan to march with Israeli flags to mark Jerusalem’s “reunification”.
Israel annexed east Jerusalem following the 1967 takeover, a move not recognised by most of the international community.
The unrest has spread across the Palestinian territories, including demonstrations and clashes in the occupied West Bank.
Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas expressed “full support for our heroes in Al-Aqsa”.
Hamas Islamists who control the Gaza Strip have voiced support for the Palestinian protesters and warned Israel of retribution if evictions proceed in Sheikh Jarrah.
Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh called Sunday for a united Arab and Muslim response against Israel’s “provocative desecration of the sanctity of (the) Al Aqsa Mosque”.
Four rockets were fired from Gaza towards Israel on Sunday, the army said, as well as incendiary balloons that started 39 fires on Israeli territory, according to the fire services.
The Israeli military said late Sunday that “tanks just struck Hamas terror targets in Gaza”, without giving further details.
Hundreds of Gaza protesters had gathered along the Israeli border Sunday, some armed with more incendiary devices, AFP reporters said.
Israel responded to the earlier launches by closing the fishing zone off Gaza, a typical sanction in response to launches from the Palestinian enclave. — AFP
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