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Israel boosts security forces ahead of tense night in Jerusalem

Published: Updated:

Israel said it was beefing up security forces on Saturday in anticipation of more confrontations with Palestinian protesters, a day after fierce clashes at Jerusalem’s al-Aqsa Mosque.

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Tensions have mounted in the city, the occupied West Bank and Gaza throughout the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, amid growing anger over the potential eviction of Palestinians from Jerusalem homes on land claimed by Jewish settlers.

On Friday, police fired rubber bullets and stun grenades towards rock-hurling Palestinian youths at the mosque in the walled Old City on the Noble Sanctuary/Temple Mount plaza sacred to both Muslims and Jews.

At least 205 Palestinians and 18 Israeli officers were injured in Friday’s confrontations, which drew international condemnations and calls for calm.

Police Commissioner Yaakov Shabtai said more officers were heading to Jerusalem on Saturday, in the build-up to the sacred Muslim night of Laylat al-Qadr.

“The right to protest will be preserved, but riots will be answered firmly and with zero tolerance. I call on everyone to act responsibly and with restraint,” Shabtai said in a statement.

Clashes have erupted nightly in East Jerusalem’s Sheikh Jarrah - a neighborhood where numerous Palestinian families face eviction in a long-running legal case.

The Israeli military said it was boosting troops in the West Bank and near the Gaza Strip, where Palestinians have sent incendiary balloons over the border, igniting brushfires in Israeli territory. A military spokesman said extra forces there would largely be firefighting ones.

Gaza groups issued a call for protests along the border with Israel. “We salute the ppl. of al-Aqsa, who oppose the arrogance of the Zionists & we call on our ppl. in Palestine to support their brothers by all means,” Moussa Abu Marzouk, a leader of the Hamas, the armed group Hamas that rules Gaza, said on Twitter.

Tension was expected to remain high over the next few days. Israel’s Supreme Court will hold a hearing on the Sheikh Jarrah evictions on Monday, the same day that Israel marks Jerusalem Day - its annual celebration of its capture of East Jerusalem during the 1967 Middle East war.

Palestinians want East Jerusalem as the capital of a future state. Israel claims the entire city as its eternal, indivisible capital. Its annexation of the eastern section was not recognized internationally.

Read more:

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