Israeli police scatter protesters in Sheikh Jarrah

Israeli police on horseback scattered protesters in the occupied East Jerusalem neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah where demonstrators poured in to support Palestinians facing eviction by Jewish settlers.

The scuffles on Friday came alongside protests elsewhere in the occupied West Bank.

Tensions that erupted in Sheikh Jarrah last year – as several Palestinian families faced eviction by settler groups – in part sparked the Israeli assault on the Gaza Strip in May.

In Jerusalem, Palestinian men laid rugs on the asphalt of a street and carried out prayers. Later, activists who ended up numbering in the hundreds joined them to protest the looming evictions.

Reporters for the AFP news agency observed Israeli border police charging the protesters on horseback after the activists refused to clear a road.

Police described the incident as a “riot” and said that “demonstrators did not listen to instructions of police”.

An AFP photographer observed two people being detained. However, police said no arrests were reported.

Sheikh Jarrah has emerged as a symbol of Palestinian resistance against Israeli control of East Jerusalem.

Israel captured East Jerusalem from Jordan in the 1967 Six-Day War and later annexed it – a move not recognised by most of the international community.

More than 200,000 Israelis live in occupied East Jerusalem, which many Palestinian groups have claimed as the capital of their future state.

Abdallah Grifat, 30, said he travelled from Nazareth in northern Israel to show his support.

“It’s my duty as a Palestinian to stand here with every other Palestinian who’s struggling for their land,” he said. “We’re standing for justice.”

Nabil Abu Rudeineh, spokesperson for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, condemned the assault on Palestinians in Sheikh Jarrah, Wafa news agency reported.

“These Israeli assaults are a continuation of the series of ongoing crimes committed in all the occupied Palestinian territories against our Palestinian people, whether by the occupation army, or by settlers,” he said, adding he holds the Israeli government responsible for the escalation.

“These attacks will not deter our people from achieving their goal of establishing their independent Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital.”

Palestinians also confronted Israeli forces in Hebron – in the southern West Bank – and in the northern West Bank’s Beita.

In Beita, residents opposed to an Israeli outpost erected on village land used slingshots to hurl rocks at Israeli forces who responded with what the army called “riot dispersal means”.

The army said no troops were injured. Wafa reported 23 Palestinians were hurt. An AFP photographer was wounded by a rubber-coated bullet fired by Israeli forces.

Hamas, the Palestinian group that governs the Gaza Strip, warned on Thursday that “violation of the red lines in Sheikh Jarrah” could “prepare the atmosphere for the next explosion”.

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