Jerusalem is on edge after a week of protests led to a violent confrontation at one of the holiest sites for both communities on Friday.
The demonstrations are in support of Palestinian families who were ordered to vacate their homes so Israeli settlers can move in. With new protests planned, the Israeli Army and police were bolstering forces in preparation for further clashes.
Palestinians in East Jerusalem are protesting an Israeli court decision to move six families out of their homes in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood, home to about 3,000 Palestinians.
More than 200 protesters and 17 Israeli police officers were hurt in a confrontation Friday night at East Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa Mosque. Cops burst into the mosque after Palestinians threw rocks and bottles at the officers, one of a series of clashes over the past week.
Hamas leader Ismael Haniyeh said that Israel would “pay a price” for the clashes at the mosque, one of Islam’s holiest sites. The hilltop where the mosque sits, known as the Temple Mount to Israelis, is the site of the two biblical temples and considered the holiest place in the world for Jews.
The dual claims make the site a flashpoint for violence between Israelis and Palestinians.
The Arab High Follow-Up Committee, a body that represents Arab Israelis, called for protests in Arab towns and cities across the country in response to the violence, The Times of Israel reported. Mass protests were expected Saturday in the Gaza Strip.
A separate demonstration was planned through the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood, to the Al-Aqsa Mosque.
Palestinian terror groups, including Hamas and Islamic Jihad, which often fires rockets from Gaza into Israeli territory, threatened Israel after the violence.
On official Palestinian Authority television, PA President Mahmoud Abbas blamed Israel for what he deemed “vicious aggression” in the Al-Aqsa compound.
The United States said Saturday it is “extremely concerned” by the events in Jerusalem, calling on officials from all sides to deescalate the tensions.
“We call on Israeli and Palestinian officials to act decisively to deescalate tensions and bring a halt to the violence,” the State Department said in a statement. “It is absolutely critical that all sides exercise restraint, refrain from provocative actions and rhetoric, and preserve the historic status quo on the Haram al-Sharif / Temple Mount – in word and in practice. Leaders across the spectrum must denounce all violent acts.”