Palestinian protesters threw rocks and Israeli police fired stun grenades and rubber bullets in clashes outside the al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem on Monday as Israel marked the anniversary of its capture of parts of the city in the 1967 Arab-Israeli war.
The Palestinian Red Crescent Society said more than 180 Palestinians were injured in the violence, of whom more than 80, including one person in critical condition, were transferred to hospitals.
Al-Aqsa, Islam’s third-holiest site, has been a focal point of violence in Jerusalem throughout the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. The clashes have raised international concern.
Tensions were particularly high as Israel was marked “Jerusalem Day”, its annual celebration of the capture of East Jerusalem and the walled Old City that is home to Muslim, Jewish and Christian holy places.
In an effort to ease the situation, Israeli police said they had banned Jewish groups from paying Jerusalem Day visits to the holy plaza that houses al-Aqsa, and which Jews revere as the site of biblical Jewish temples.
Police were also considering whether to reroute a traditional Jerusalem Day march in which thousands of Israeli flag-waving Jewish youth walk through the Old City’s Damascus Gate and the Muslim Quarter.
Police fired tear gas, stun grenades and rubber bullets at hundreds of Palestinians who hurled rocks at them on al-Aqsa’s stone-strewn plaza, witnesses said.
“Extremist Palestinians planned well in advance to carry out riots today on the Temple Mount,” Ofir Gendelman, a spokesman for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tweeted. “What we see now is the result of that.”
Police said they had deployed thousands of officers in Jerusalem streets and on rooftops to keep the peace.
Israel views all of Jerusalem as its capital, including the eastern part that it annexed in a move that has not won international recognition. Palestinians want East Jerusalem to be the capital of a state they seek in the occupied West Bank and Gaza.
Tensions have also been fuelled by the planned evictions of several Palestinian families from the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood in East Jerusalem.
Israel’s attorney-general secured a deferment on Sunday of a Supreme Court hearing on Monday in the long-running evictions case that had threatened to stoke more violence.
A lower court had found in favour of Jewish settlers’ claim to the land on which the Palestinians’ homes are located, a decision seen by Palestinians as a bid by Israel to drive them from contested Jerusalem.
U.S. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan expressed “serious concerns” about the situation in Jerusalem, including the potential evictions, in a call with his Israeli counterpart on Sunday.
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres also expressed on Sunday his concern over the situation.
Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip, who have condemned Israeli actions in Jerusalem, fired at least three rockets towards Israel on Monday, after launching four projectiles a day earlier, the Israeli military said.
No casualties or damage were reported.
Israel responded to Sunday’s attack with tank fire against positions belonging to Hamas, the militant Islamist group that runs the Gaza Strip.