Palestinians gathered in celebration outside Jerusalem’s Damascus Gate on Sunday night after barriers put up by Israeli police were removed, allowing them access to a square that became the focus of nightly Ramadan clashes.
Thousands filled the East Jerusalem plaza late on Sunday, cheering and chanting, after police permitted them access to the tiered entrance to Jerusalem’s Old City that is a popular night-time meeting place during the Muslim holy month.
Videos shared on social media showed that some in the crowd of Palestinians removed the barriers while Israeli police officers stood by. The police later confirmed that the barriers had been removed.
The clashes followed the start of Ramadan on April 13 and laid bare simmering tensions in the holy city.
There were nights of confrontations between stone-throwing youths and police in riot gear trying to disperse them, using horses and vehicles spraying foul-smelling skunk water.
The violence peaked on Thursday when Palestinian medics said 100 people were injured as Israeli police arrested more than 50 protesters, even as hundreds of ultra-nationalist Israelis marched through central Jerusalem towards Damascus Gate chanting: “Death to Arabs”.
Palestinians say police have tried to prevent them from holding their usual Ramadan evening gatherings outside the gate, a historic landmark on the north side of the Old City and adjacent to several Palestinian neighbourhoods.
Meanwhile, videos on social media purporting to show Palestinian youths striking ultra-Orthodox Jews in the city have drawn protests by Israelis and calls by far-right politicians for tougher police action.