Clashes have broken out in Jerusalem between Israeli police and mainly Palestinian youth. At least 53 protesters and six police officers were injured in the clash near the Al-Aqsa Mosque on the Temple Mount on Friday evening, Israeli police and Palestinian medics said. The AFP news agency, citing police and medics, reported as many as about 170 injured in East Jerusalem, with 80 of the injured Palestinians hospitalized, the Red Crescent said Friday.
Police said six of their officers were injured when they were attacked from the crowd with stones and firecrackers. Several thousand protesters faced hundreds of riot police. Police used water cannons and armored vehicles to disperse the crowd. The protesters threw stones at the forces.
According to eyewitnesses, the police officers used rubber bullets against the Palestinians in front of the Al-Aqsa Mosque. Dozens of shots were heard in the Old City. Police spokesman Wassem Bader told the AFP news agency that officers intervened against "violent disturbances." According to police guarding the entrances to the Temple Mount, officers were pelted with "stones, bottles and other objects" by "hundreds of rioters." Several protesters were arrested.
Currently, among other things, there is massive tension between Israelis and Palestinians over the threat of forced evictions for Palestinian families in Israeli-annexed East Jerusalem. For several days, there have been daily protests, some of them violent. Israeli police had already prepared for new clashes with protesting Palestinians in view of Friday prayers. Pictures taken by Palestinian media showed rows of Israeli security forces. Thousands of Muslim believers gather at the Temple Mount for prayers on the last Friday of the Islamic fasting month of Ramadan.
The United States expressed "deep concern" about the situation in Jerusalem. The State Department called for "de-escalation" and warned against steps that could lead to an aggravation of the situation. The United Nations has warned Israel against forced evictions of Palestinian homes planned in East Jerusalem. It may be a "war crime," UN rights office spokesman Rupert Colville said Friday in Geneva. "We call on Israel to immediately call off all forced evictions." East Jerusalem is "part of the occupied Palestinian territory where international humanitarian law applies," he stressed. "The occupying power cannot confiscate private property in occupied territory."
Transferring civilians to occupied territory is illegal under international law and "could amount to a war crime," Colville added. Some 30 Palestinians currently face imminent eviction by Israeli authorities from their homes in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood. Sheikh Sharrah is located in the eastern part of Jerusalem, which Israel occupied in the 1967 Six-Day War and annexed in 1980. The annexation is not recognized internationally.