Palestinian medics said that 88 people had been taken to hospital and more than 200 injured, mostly by rubber bullets, stun grenades and beatings, amid protests over threats of eviction and perceived attempts to curb religious freedom among Muslims in Jerusalem.
On Saturday evening, a crowd of Palestinian protesters gathered outside the Old City’s Damascus Gate, chanting “God is great”. Some threw rocks and water bottles at police as well as lighting fires and tearing down police barricades.
At the nearby Al-Aqsa mosque, one of the holiest sites in Islam, some 90,000 people were gathered for nighttime prayers, according to Islamic authorities, to mark Laylat al-Qadr, or Night of Destiny, the most sacred night in the holy month of Ramadan.
Police reported that clashes had broken out near the mosque earlier on Saturday in the East Jerusalem neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah. Dozens of Palestinians fought Israeli settlers’ attempts to evict them from their homes. Several arrests were made, and one officer was struck in the face by a rock, police said.
“Jerusalem is Israel’s capital and just as every nation builds in its capital and builds up its capital, we also have the right to build in Jerusalem and to build up Jerusalem. That is what we have done and that is what we will continue to do.”
Earlier on Saturday, police angered Arab citizens by stopping a convoy of buses heading towards Jerusalem for Ramadan prayers. The travellers were upset that they had been stopped without explanation on a hot day during which they were fasting, and blocked the road in protest. It was reopened several hours later.
Israel’s public broadcaster Kan said police stopped the buses for a security check, while Ibtasam Maraana, an Arab member of parliament, accused them of a “terrible attack” on religious freedom. She tweeted: “Police: Remember that they are citizens, not enemies.”