Police Attempt to Ease Tensions

On Sunday Israeli police removed barricades just outside the Damascus Gate in Jerusalem which have prompted violent protests since the start of Ramadan. The area is a popular place for Muslim worshippers to gather in the evenings during their holy month.

The barriers were put in place as part of the coronavirus restrictions but were clearly a source of resentment within the Arab community.

A police spokesman said the decision came: “following consultations with local leadership, religious leadership, situation assessments, while taking into consideration the shop owners who need to make a living, and in order to lower the level of violence”.

Hundreds of Muslims celebrated at the entrance to Jerusalem’s Old City on Sunday evening once the controversial barriers had been removed.

 

Israeli Police remove barriers by the Damascus GateIsraeli Police remove barriers by the Damascus Gate (photo: AP/Ariel Schalit)

An Israeli news channel helped prompt the change after the Police Commissioner told reporters on Saturday that it was a longstanding policy implemented annually to prevent crowding and allow for free flow of visitors in and out of the Old City during Ramadan.

Photos from previous years were posted online revealing that there were no barriers in place, and Channel 12 spoke with former police officials who called on the current commissioner to scrap the policy as a demonstration of good faith to Muslims during this particularly sensitive time of year.

However, violence broke out again late on Sunday night as young Arabs began throwing bottles and rocks at police by the Damascus Gate. Hundreds of young Arabs are reported to have converged on the area chanting: “With blood and fire we will liberate you, Palestine.”

This latest violence led to the arrest of 12 people for violence and attacking police officers.

Days of violent protests and a counter-protest by right-wing extremist Jews have prompted Israel’s new friends, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), to express their concern publicly on Monday.

The UAE’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation emphasized its “categorical rejection and condemnation of all forms of violence and hatred that contravene with all humanitarian values and principles.”

And the UAE called upon the Israeli authorities to assume responsibility for de-escalation of the situation.

There is an ongoing need to pray for the peace of Jerusalem (Psalm 122).