Dozens arrested in anti-Arab and anti-COVID-restriction protests in Jerusalem

Palestinians running from stun grenades
Palestinians run as Israeli police fire stun grenades during clashes at the Damascus Gate just outside Jerusalem’s Old City on Thursday.
(Mahmoud Illean / Associated Press)

Israeli police say 44 people were arrested and 20 officers were wounded in a night of chaos in Jerusalem, where security forces separately clashed with Palestinians angry about Ramadan restrictions and Jewish extremists who held an anti-Arab march nearby.

Tensions have spiked in recent days in Jerusalem, which has long been a flashpoint in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and is home to religious sites sacred to Jews, Christians and Muslims. Residents braced for possible further unrest ahead of Muslim Friday prayers as police stepped up security and the U.S. Embassy appealed for calm.

Palestinians have clashed with Israeli police on a nightly basis since the start of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. The tensions began when police placed barricades outside the Old City’s Damascus Gate, where Muslims traditionally gather to enjoy the evening after the daytime fast.


Late Thursday, hundreds of Palestinians hurled stones and bottles at police, who fired a water cannon and stun grenades to disperse them. Dozens of Palestinians were wounded in the melee.

Meanwhile, a far-right Jewish group known as Lahava led a march of hundreds of protesters chanting “Arabs get out!” toward the Damascus Gate. The show of force came in response to videos circulated on TikTok showing Palestinians slapping religious Jews at random. Other videos made in response to them appear to show Jews assaulting Arabs.

Police used metal barricades to halt the far-right protesters a few hundred yards from Damascus Gate. Later, they used a water cannon, stun grenades and mounted police to push them back toward mostly Jewish West Jerusalem.

Muslims in many parts of the world are marking the start of Ramadan as coronavirus cases spike in some countries.

Videos circulated online showed smaller clashes and fires elsewhere in the city. One video showed what appeared to be a group of Palestinians beating an ultra-Orthodox Jewish man near Damascus Gate. They could be seen punching and kicking him and throwing him to the ground before police chased them off.

The police statement did not specify whether those arrested were Palestinian or Jewish and did not refer to any specific instances of violence. The police did not immediately respond to a request for more details.

Israel captured East Jerusalem in the 1967 Middle East War and annexed it in a move not recognized by most of the international community. The Palestinians want East Jerusalem as the capital of their future state. Its fate has been one of the most divisive issues in the Mideast peace process, which ground to a halt more than a decade ago.

The U.S. Embassy said it was “deeply concerned” about the violence in recent days. “We hope all responsible voices will promote an end to incitement, a return to calm, and respect for the safety and dignity of everyone in Jerusalem,” it said in a statement.

Thousands of Palestinians were expected to attend weekly prayers at the Al Aqsa mosque in the Haram al Sharif, or Noble Sanctuary, in Jerusalem’s Old City on Friday. The site is the third-holiest in Islam and the holiest for Jews, who refer to it as the Temple Mount.

The sprawling hilltop holy site has been the scene of clashes on a number of occasions over the years, and was the epicenter of the 2000 Palestinian intifada, or uprising.