Israel’s police chief said more officers would be deployed on the streets of Jerusalem this weekend following a night of heavy clashes with Palestinians.
Tensions remain high in the city as thousands of Muslim worshippers returned on Saturday to mark Laylat al-Qadr, the most sacred night of the month of Ramadan, at the city’s Al-Aqsa mosque.
Dozens of buses filled with Israeli Arab citizens were stopped on the main road heading into Jerusalem for what officials said were security checks, prompting passengers to block traffic and pray on the highway in protest.
More than 200 Palestinians were wounded on Friday night during clashes with Israeli police on inside the mosque compound, which is also known as Haram al-Sharif.
There were reports of further clashes on Saturday night.
It is the third holiest site in Islam and the holiest site for Jews, who refer to it as the Temple Mount.
Friday night’s violence left 83 people wounded by rubber-coated bullets, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry, including two with serious head injuries and two with broken jaws.
Israeli police said 17 of its officers had been wounded by stones, fireworks and other objects hurled at them.
Police commissioner Yaakov Shabtai said he had ordered up reinforcements ahead of Laylat al-Qadr, saying “the right to demonstrate will be respected but public disturbances will be met with force and zero tolerance. I call on everyone to act responsibly and with restraint.”
Tensions have been growing in Jerusalem over the authorities’ threat to evict dozens of Palestinians embroiled in a legal battle with Israeli settlers over property in East Jerusalem.
Condemnation and calls to de-escalate
An Israeli court is expected to issue a verdict on the evictions on Monday.
Earlier on Saturday both the European Union and United States called for calm in the city.
The European External Action Service said in a statement: “The European Union calls on the authorities to act urgently to de-escalate the current tensions in Jerusalem.
“Acts of incitement around the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif must be avoided and the status quo has to be respected.”
The actions of Israeli police were condemned this weekend by countries including Egypt, Jordan, Bahrain and Turkey — all of which have diplomatic relations with Israel.