Palestinian rioters clashed with the Israel Police near Jerusalem’s Damascus Gate on Sunday for the second night of Ramadan in a row. Officers responded far more forcefully, using riot dispersal measures, while carrying out arrests.
Handfuls of rioters hurled glass bottles, rocks, and other objects at a police checkpoint, as was the case on Saturday night.
On Saturday, police managed to contain the situation without using riot dispersal measures, while arresting four. One officer was lightly injured after being struck by a bottle.
Sunday night saw police hurl stun grenades, beat protesters with batons and scatter rioters while on horseback. Police said they arrested at least 10 suspects. A number of arrests were carried out by plain-clothed officers who embedded themselves into the crowd.
A number of the bottles hurled by rioters struck Muslim worshipers as they returned from evening prayers at the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound. Protesters also lit fire to a dumpster near the Old City’s Damascus Gate.
Earlier Sunday, Foreign Minister Yair Lapid toured the Damascus Gate area with Police Commissioner Kobi Shabtai and lawmakers from his Yesh Atid party.
Lapid told officers, “We give you full backing,” as he was given a security briefing by Shabtai and other senior officers, including Jerusalem District Commander Turgeman.
“This is a difficult, tense period, but we have a police force that can be relied on to get us through this complex period,” he said, according to a statement from his office.
Lapid added that over 8,000 police officers will be deployed across the country during the upcoming Passover holiday.
The visit was condemned by the Palestinian Authority Foreign Ministry as a “provocation,” which accused Lapid of inciting against Palestinians.
The PA insisted that Jewish extremists were the ones putting public order at risk in Jerusalem, in an apparent reference to visits by Jewish ultra-nationalists to the Temple Mount, and the recent takeover of the Petra Hotel near the Old City’s Jaffa Gate by the far-right Ateret Cohanim group.
Lapid was also joined Sunday by Economy Minister Orna Barbivai and Deputy Public Security Minister Yoav Segalovich.
According to a statement from Lapid’s office, Shabtai said police are at “peak readiness,” citing Ramadan and the recent attacks.
Earlier Sunday, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said that Israel is entering a period of “vigilant routine,” as security forces work to prevent further terror attacks.
“Terrorists have all kinds of ideas, so we are on high alert, both the Shin Bet and the Israel Police, to identify any hint of an idea or plan for an attack, and thwart it in advance,” Bennett said during a visit the Shin Bet security agency’s northern West Bank headquarters, after troops killed three gunmen who were allegedly en route from the Jenin area to carry out an attack in Israel in the predawn hours of Saturday.
Bennett said the Israel Defense Forces are also on high alert along the West Bank security barrier, after a gap in the fence was used by a Palestinian who then killed five people in a shooting attack in Bnei Brak last week.
A series of deadly terror attacks killed 11 people in Israel in a week, including the shooting in Bnei Brak, putting Israeli security forces on heightened alert. The escalation has come as the Muslim holy month of Ramadan was set to begin— often a period of high tension in Israel and the West Bank.
“Our goal is to break the wave” of attacks, said Bennett.
“We are now entering a period of ‘vigilant routine,’ where we want the citizens of Israel to return to [their daily] routine and the security forces to be on high alert,” he said.
Israel has ramped up security measures in response to the attacks and deployed additional forces to the West Bank, Gaza border, and major cities, such as Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.
Israeli officials have sought to quell the tensions as Ramadan begins, given fears that the violence could snowball into the same type of unrest that rocked Israel in May 2021, when Hamas began shooting rockets into Israel, sparking an 11-day war with Gaza and days of rioting between Arabs and Jews inside Israel.