Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Saturday called an emergency meeting and called for calm for Jews, Palestinians and the country’s security forces after two nights of clashes in Jerusalem and rocket fire in the Gaza Strip .
“Above all, we want to maintain law and order. We demand that the law be observed, and I call on all parties to calm down,” Netanyahu said. “We want to maintain freedom of worship as every year for all residents and tourists of Jerusalem,” added the Prime Minister in reference to the prayer at the esplanade of the mosques, one of the holy places of Islam .
In the middle of Ramadan, the most important month for the religious tradition of Muslims, Jerusalem has become the scene of conflict. The tension of recent days, which started with police preventing people from sitting on the steps of Damascus Gate – one of the entrances to the Old City – escalated into violence last Thursday (22).
Palestinians, prevented from holding their evening meetings, were particularly provoked when a group of ultranationalist Israelis marched, organized by the far-right Jewish movement Lahava, towards the Damascus Gate, chanting “Death to the Arabs “And” death to terrorists “. There were clashes between the two groups and the police dispersed the protesters with tear gas canisters and water cannons. The balance was at least 120 wounded and 50 arrested.
Conflicts resumed on Friday evening (23), when young Palestinians gathered outside the walls of the Old City. Hundreds of officers responded to stones thrown by protesters by firing water cannons.
Police said Palestinians threw stones at an Israeli court and destroyed security cameras. Other incidents occurred in various Palestinian neighborhoods in East Jerusalem, at the Qalandiya border post, which connects Israel to the West Bank, and in Bethlehem, in the occupied West Bank.
Despite Netanyahu’s calls for an end to the crisis, Jerusalem was again the scene of clashes on Saturday evening, with a lower level of violence than in previous days, an AFP news agency reporter reported. According to the Palestinian Red Crescent (the equivalent of the Red Cross in Muslim countries), six Palestinians were injured in the clash.
Also on Saturday, Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip fired 36 rockets at Israel. According to the Israeli armed forces, all of the fire was intercepted by anti-missile shields or landed on vacant land, so there were no reports of fatalities or injuries. In retaliation, military tanks, fighters and helicopters have targeted the positions of Hamas, an Islamic group that controls Gaza and is considered a terrorist organization by Israel, the United States and the European Union, according to the military. .
The attacks interrupted months of relative calm on the Israel-Gaza border. The IDF has not imposed security restrictions in the region, signaling that it does not expect a wider escalation immediately.
Israel’s chief of staff Aviv Kohavi, however, postponed a visit to Washington scheduled for Sunday (25), due to recent events and their possible developments.
Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz also said the military was ready for possible escalation. “If calm is not maintained in the south, Gaza will be badly affected, and those responsible will be the Hamas leadership,” he said.
United Nations Middle East envoy Tor Wennesland said the organization was working with all parties to pacify the scenario. In a written statement, he condemned the violence and called for everyone’s restraint. PNA (Palestinian National Authority) President Mahmoud Abbas denounced “incitement to hatred” by far-right Israeli groups and urged the international community to “protect” Palestinians in East Jerusalem.