State Department 'extremely concerned' over violence in Jerusalem

State Department 'extremely concerned' over violence in Jerusalem
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The State Department said it is “extremely concerned” over mushrooming violence in Jerusalem after reports that scores of people were injured in renewed clashes Friday night.

The clashes near Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa Mosque, an area that is holy to all three Abrahamic religions, coincided with the waning days of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. The clashes appeared to center around evictions of Palestinians by Jewish settlers in East Jerusalem and attacks on Israeli soldiers.

“The United States is extremely concerned about ongoing confrontations in Jerusalem, including on the Haram al-Sharif / Temple Mount and in Sheikh Jarrah, which have reportedly resulted in scores of injured people,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said late Friday. “We call on Israeli and Palestinian officials to act decisively to deescalate tensions and bring a halt to the violence.”

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Reuters reported that 205 Palestinians and 17 officers were injured Friday night. Israeli police fired rubber bullets and deployed stun grenades to disperse crowds of Palestinians, some of whom were throwing rocks at authorities.

The Palestinian Red Crescent said some of its emergency medical teams were denied access by Israeli forces to support its branch in Jerusalem.

The violence marked some of the most serious clashes that have occurred during Ramadan, a time when tensions frequently run high between Israeli authorities and Palestinian residents over access to Muslim holy sites in East Jerusalem.

The State Department spokesman said the U.S. is in communication with Israeli and Palestinian leaders and called on both sides to protect the “status quo” over access by Jews and Muslims to prayer sites in the area.

“It is absolutely critical that all sides exercise restraint, refrain from provocative actions and rhetoric, and preserve the historic status quo on the Haram al-Sharif / Temple Mount – in word and in practice. Leaders across the spectrum must denounce all violent acts. Security services must ensure the safety of all of Jerusalem’s residents and hold all perpetrators to account,” Price said.

“We are also deeply concerned about the potential eviction of Palestinian families in Sheikh Jarrah and Silwan neighborhoods of Jerusalem, many of whom have lived in their homes for generations. As we have consistently said, it is critical to avoid steps that exacerbate tensions or take us farther away from peace. This includes evictions in East Jerusalem, settlement activity, home demolitions, and acts of terrorism,” Price added.

The violence in East Jerusalem led to calls for calm from across the Middle East and concerns over the status of Palestinian residents in the area.           

The foreign ministry of the United Arab Emirates, which normalized relations with Israel last year, expressed its “deep concern over the violence in occupied East Jerusalem and its strong condemnation of the storming of Al-Aqsa Mosque and the displacement of Palestinian families from the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood.” 

“Shame on Israel and those who keep silent in the face of disgraceful attacks on Masjid al-Aqsa in this holy month of fasting. Palestine and the Palestinians are not alone,” added Turkish presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin. “We call on everyone to stand up against the policies of occupation and aggression of this apartheid state.”