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Israel Faces Widespread Criticism Over Al-Aqsa Mosque Clashes

Bloomberg logo Bloomberg 08/05/2021 Zainab Fattah

(Bloomberg) -- Israel faced international criticism after clashes between police and worshipers at the Al-Aqsa mosque following protests over the potential eviction of Palestinians from a neighborhood in East Jerusalem.

The clashes continued Saturday night, the holiest night of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan.

Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates, both of which signed accords to normalize ties with Israel last year, condemned Israel earlier Saturday. And envoys from the so-called Middle East Quartet said they’re closely monitoring the situation and had “serious concern” about the possible evictions inflaming an already tense environment.

a group of people performing on stage in front of a fence: Tensions Rise In Jerusalem After Al-Aqsa Mosque Clashes © Getty Images via Bloomberg Tensions Rise In Jerusalem After Al-Aqsa Mosque Clashes

“We call upon Israeli authorities to exercise restraint and to avoid measures that would further escalate the situation,” the envoys said in a joint statement. The Quartet is made up of nations and international entities involved in mediating the Israel-Palestinian peace process, including the EU, Russia, the U.S. and the United Nations.

Separately, the U.S., a strong ally of Israel, said late on Friday it was “extremely concerned about the ongoing confrontations in Jerusalem,” noting that they’ve resulted in “scores of injured people.”

“We call on Israeli and Palestinian officials to act decisively to deescalate tensions and bring a halt to the violence,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said.

Dozens were injured in the clashes on Friday night after tens of thousands gathered at the third-holiest mosque in Islam to mark the end of Ramadan under a heavy police presence, the Associated Press reported. Clashes broke out with worshipers throwing chairs and rocks and police in riot gear firing rubber bullets and using grenades, the AP said.

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 a statement, Bahrain’s foreign minister called on Israel to immediately stop any further provocation of the people of Jerusalem. Israel’s plan to evict people from Jerusalem “violates the resolutions of international legitimacy, and undermines the chances of resuming the peace process to achieve security and stability in the region.”

‘End All Attacks’

The UAE called on Israeli authorities to “take responsibility for the de-escalation, to end all attacks and practices that lead to continued tension,” according to a foreign ministry statement. The UAE also stressed “the need to preserve the historical identity of occupied Jerusalem, calm down and exercise utmost restraint to avoid the region drifting into new levels of instability.”

The government’s statement came after the U.S. said it’s “extremely concerned” about ongoing confrontations in Jerusalem, including on the Temple Mount and potential evictions in Sheikh Jarrah and Silwan neighborhoods.

Israel’s foreign ministry said Friday that some Palestinians were presenting a private real estate dispute as a national cause in order to incite violence in Jerusalem.

The Quartet envoys said they were “alarmed by the provocative statements made by some political groups, as well as the launching of rockets and the resumption of incendiary balloons from Gaza towards Israel, and attacks on Palestinian farmland in the West Bank.”

“All leaders have a responsibility to act against extremists and to speak out against all acts of violence and incitement, they said, reiterating their commitment to a negotiated two-state solution.

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