Jerusalem Violence Swells as Ramadan Approaches

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    Palestinian protesters clashed with Israeli police on a highway in Israel Saturday, a day after more than 200 people were injured during clashes at the Al-Aqsa Mosque and in other parts of East Jerusalem.

    Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pushed back against international criticism of government policies that have sparked weeks of violence in contested Jerusalem, condemning the unrest as the work of extremists and rejecting what he said is mounting pressure to halt Jewish construction in the city.

    “We will not allow any extremist element to undermine the quiet in Jerusalem,” Netanyahu said at a special cabinet meeting marking Jerusalem Day, the reunification of the city in the 1967 Middle East war. “We will uphold law and order, vigorously and responsibly. We will continue to safeguard freedom of worship for all faiths but we will not allow violent disturbances.”

    Addressing “our best friends,” he added, “Israel is our capital and we will continue to build there.”

    The holy city has has been seething with its worst unrest in years since the beginning of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan more than three weeks ago. Israeli restrictions on gathering at a traditional Ramadan meeting place outside the Old City touched off the tensions, but after they were lifted, protests were rekindled by the threatened evictions of Palestinians from longtime homes in the eastern sector of the city that Israel captured in 1967.

    Over the weekend, Palestinian medics said dozens of Palestinians were wounded in confrontations with security forces at one of Islam’s holiest shrines, the Al-Aqsa mosque compound, and other parts of the city. Worshipers threw chairs and rocks, and police in riot gear fired rubber bullets and stun grenades, the Associated Press reported.

    Earlier, Israel blocked busloads of Muslim pilgrims headed for prayers at the mosque on Saturday night, the holiest night of Ramadan, saying they had intelligence there were provocateurs on board.

    After another night of clashes, the Israeli military reported rocket fire early Sunday local time from Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip, the AP said. No one was reported injured. In response, Israeli aircraft struck a Hamas military post.

    Tensions have also been stoked by the killing of a Palestinian teenager, Palestinian gunmen and a young Israeli in the West Bank, the postponement of Palestinian elections, and the resumed launching of incendiary balloons from the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip at southern Israel.

    Competing claims to east Jerusalem, home to Muslim, Jewish and Christian holy sites, lie at the core of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and the city is a frequent flashpoint for violence.

    Despite the volatility, Israeli police have decided to allow the annual Jerusalem Day parade to go ahead, the Associated Press reported. A court hearing Monday on some of the evictions was delayed.

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    In This Story: Israel

    Israel, a Middle Eastern country on the Mediterranean Sea, is regarded by Jews, Christians and Muslims as the biblical Holy Land. Its most sacred sites are in Jerusalem. Within its Old City, the Temple Mount complex includes the Dome of the Rock shrine, the historic Western Wall, Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Israel’s financial hub, Tel Aviv, is known for its Bauhaus architecture and beaches. 

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