Israeli police faced off with hundreds of Palestinian protesters Sunday in another night of clashes in east Jerusalem, a day before Israeli nationalists planned to parade through the Old City in an annual flag-waving display meant to cement Israeli claims to the contested area.
The late-night skirmishes raised the likelihood of further clashes Monday during the annual Jerusalem Day celebrations. Israeli police gave the go-ahead to the parade Sunday, despite days of unrest and soaring Israeli-Palestinian tensions at a flashpoint holy site and in a nearby Arab neighborhood where Jews are trying to evict dozens of Palestinians from their homes.
Addressing a special Cabinet meeting ahead of Jerusalem Day, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday that Israel “will not allow any extremists to destabilize the calm in Jerusalem. We will enforce law and order decisively and responsibly.”
“We will continue to maintain freedom of worship for all faiths, but we will not allow violent disturbances,” he said. At the same time, he said, “We emphatically reject the pressures not to build in Jerusalem.”
The United States again expressed its “serious concerns” about the situation in Jerusalem, including clashes between Palestinian worshippers and Israeli police in the Old City, as well as the expected expulsion of Palestinian families.
Washington made its concerns during a phone call between National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan and his Israeli counterpart. Sullivan urged Israel “to pursue appropriate measures to ensure calm during Jerusalem Day commemorations,” according to a statement by National Security Council spokeswoman Emily Horne.
Jerusalem Day is meant to celebrate Israel’s recapturing east Jerusalem, home to the Old City and its sensitive holy sites, in the 1967 Mideast war.
This year the march coincides with Ramadan, a time of heightened religious tensions, and follows weeks of clashes. That, combined with anger over the eviction plan in the nearby Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood, could set the stage for an especially volatile day.
In Sunday night’s clashes, Palestinian protesters pelted police with rocks and bottles, while police fired stun grenades and a water cannon to disperse the crowds.
Hundreds of Palestinians exiting the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood rioted in Yerushalayim on Sunday evening, attacking some 50 Jews by throwing rocks and bottles at them. The civilians fired 3 bullets into the air to fend off the rioters.
With tensions high, the Israeli Supreme Court postponed a decision on the possible evictions in Sheikh Jarrah. The decision had been expected for Monday, but was pushed back by up to 30 days in light of “circumstances,” the court said.
Israel has cast the evictions case as a real estate dispute. Palestinians portray the planned evictions as a part of a campaign to drive Palestinians from traditionally Arab neighborhoods.
Updated Sunday, May 9, 2021 at 10:53 pm .