image Photo: Flash90, Reuters

Ramadan in Jerusalem marked by violence

Nightly clashes and other violent incidents between Palestinians and Israelis in Jerusalem during Ramadan have brought simmering tensions to a boil.

Hostilities began at the start of the Muslim month of Ramadan on 13 April when Arab youth gathered outside the Damascus Gate entry into the Old City to celebrate the end of the daytime fast by harassing their ultra-Orthodox Jewish counterparts.

As part of what Israeli authorities fear is a growing trend, the assailants filmed and posted video of their attacks on the TikTok social media app in a “challenge” competition for “likes.” The incidents include clips of Arab teenagers suddenly slapping a young religious Jewish passenger aboard the Jerusalem light rail train, an attack on a young Jewish boy riding a bicycle, as well as rock throwing and the spraying of tear gas at ultra-Orthodox people.

At least 4 of the perpetrators seen in the videos have been caught and arrested, but the attacks have prompted protests by Israelis and calls by some right-wing politicians for tougher police action.

Police have also tried to prevent the Ramadan evening gatherings at the Damascus Gate by firing stun grenades and spraying foul-smelling skunk water to disperse the Arabs, who have responded by launching fireworks at the officers. A spokesman for the Israeli police said that units are doing their utmost to ensure the freedom of worship by tens of thousands of Muslims who want to pray at the al Aqsa mosque in the Old City, and vowed the forces would “carry out field activities using various means to prevent friction, violence and confrontation, and to maintain order and security in the area” and “act firmly against violence and riots of all kinds.”

4 people were arrested in a street fight that broke out on Wednesday night downtown Jerusalem on Jaffa Road.

Large-scale clashes between the sides erupted last night when hundreds of far-right Israeli activists participated in a protest march organized by the radical, anti-Arab Lehava group to “restore Jewish dignity,” while Arab social media posts called for a counter-demonstration in defense against “settler thugs.” Hundreds of police officers in riot gear who were deployed to the area to use crowd dispersal measures came under rock-throwing attacks. 20 officers sustained injuries in the violence and 44 rioters from both camps were arrested on charges of assault.

One Jewish male driver was reportedly treated for injuries at an area hospital after when Arab assailants targeted his vehicle with rocks, and repeatedly kicked him on the ground when he fell while trying to flee the scene. His car was later set on fire.

During a special meeting of the United Nations Security Council on the situation in the Middle East, the world body’s Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Tor Wennesland called “all sides to take steps to de-escalate tensions and maintain calm.”