A night of heavy clashes between Palestinians and Israeli police at the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound and elsewhere in Jerusalem left more than 200 Palestinians wounded, medics said Saturday, as the city braced for even more violence after weeks of unrest. Nightly protests broke out at the start of the holy month of Ramadan over police restrictions at a popular gathering place and have reignited in recent days over threatened eviction of dozens of Palestinians from their homes in east Jerusalem, which is claimed by both sides in the decades-old conflict. It was unclear what set off the violence at Al-Aqsa—the third holiest site in Islam and the holiest site for Jews—which erupted when Israeli police in riot gear deployed in large numbers as thousands of Muslim worshippers were holding evening prayers, per the AP. Throughout the night, large groups of protesters could be seen hurling rocks as Israeli police fired rubber bullets and stun grenades.
The Palestine Red Crescent emergency service said 88 of the wounded were hospitalized. The Palestinian Health Ministry said 83 people were wounded by rubber-coated bullets, including three who were shot in the eye, two with serious head injuries, and two with broken jaws. The Israeli police said protesters hurled stones, fireworks, and other objects at them, wounding 17 officers, half of whom were hospitalized. "We will respond with a heavy hand to all violent disturbances, riots, and attacks on our forces," it said in a statement late Friday. At the beginning of Ramadan in mid-April, Israel blocked off a popular gathering spot for Palestinians. The move set off two weeks of clashes before Israel lifted restrictions. In recent days, protests have grown over Israel's threatened eviction of dozens of Palestinians in east Jerusalem. The US said it was "deeply concerned" about both the violence and the threatened evictions and was in contact with leaders on both sides to de-escalate tensions.
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