Hundreds hurt in violent clashes in Israel

Photo: AP

Over 200 people were injured as clashes between Israeli police and Palestinian protesters in Jerusalem escalated, BBC reported. The police used rubber bullets and stun grenades while protesters responded with stones and bottles. The main battleground was around the Al-Aqsa Mosque where security forces had to disperse a large crowd. Some officers were also hurt, Palestinian medics and local police said. Tensions have been rising over the potential eviction of Palestinians from land claimed by Jewish settlers. The Red Crescent has opened a field hospital to treat the wounded.

The Al-Aqsa mosque complex in Jerusalem's Old City is one of Islam's most revered locations, but its location is also the holiest site in Judaism, known as the Temple Mount. The site is a frequent flashpoint for violence, which unfolded again on Friday night after thousands had gathered there to observe the last Friday of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. Israeli Police said they had used force to "restore order" due to the "rioting of thousands of worshippers" after evening prayers.

The international community also appealed for de-escalation, as anger mounted over the threatened eviction of Palestinian families in East Jerusalem's Shaikh Jarrah district. A US State Department spokeswoman said Washington was "deeply concerned about the heightened tensions". The UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Tor Vennesland, urged all parties to "respect the status quo of holy sites in Jerusalem's Old City in the interest of peace & stability."

Sunday night is “Laylat al-Qadr” or the “Night of Destiny,” the most sacred in the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. Worshippers will gather for intense nighttime prayers at Al-Aqsa.

Sunday night is also the start of Jerusalem Day, a national holiday in which Israel celebrates its annexation of east Jerusalem and religious nationalists hold parades and other celebrations in the city. On Monday, an Israeli court is expected to issue a verdict on the evictions.

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