Scores Injured in Clashes as Muslims Observe Laylat al-Qadr at Al-Aqsa Mosque

Clashes continued in East Jerusalem as thousands of Muslims prayed at the Al-Aqsa Mosque on Islam's holy night of Laylat al-Qadr. Palestinian protesters and Israeli police clashed outside the Old City, resulting in injuries for scores of people.

Palestinians are protesting against forced displacement of six families situated in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood following an order from a district court in East Jerusalem. The court has also ruled that seven more families in Sheikh Jarrah must leave their homes by August 1.

More Palestinians will be forced to vacate their homes in the coming weeks if the Supreme Court turns down their appeal against a pending eviction. Currently, right-wing Jewish nationals are settling down in Sheikh Jarrah. They are of the opinion that the Palestinian homes were built on land owned by Jewish people before Israel was established as a state.

At least 80 people were injured, including minors and a one-year-old, and 14 were taken to hospital, Reuters reported, citing the Palestine Red Crescent. Israeli police said at least one officer was hurt.

"They do not want us to pray. There is a fight every day, every day there are clashes. Every day there are troubles," said Mahmoud al-Marbua, 27, speaking near the Old City's Damascus Gate, according to the news agency.

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Tensions have mounted in the city 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.

Sheikh Jarrah violence
Palestinian families are forcefully being evicted by Israeli cops in Sheikh Jarrah, East Jerusalem. Twitter screengrab

In the Palestinian Gaza Strip, hundreds of protesters gathered along the border with Israel. The Israeli military said the crowds threw burning tyres and firecrackers toward the troops.

Gaza militants fired at least one rocket into Israel which landed in an open area, the military said.

"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 armed Islamist group Hamas that rules Gaza, said on Twitter.

Israel said it was beefing up security forces on Saturday in anticipation of further confrontations in Jerusalem, the occupied West Bank and Gaza after fierce clashes erupted the previous night at Al-Aqsa Mosque.

A Palestinian official said Egypt was mediating between the sides to prevent further escalation and Saturday's violence appeared less pronounced than Friday's events.

On Friday, police fired rubber bullets and stun grenades towards rock-hurling Palestinian youths at the mosque on the Noble Sanctuary/Temple Mount plaza holy 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.

Cause of Clashes in Sheikh Jarrah

Al-Aqsa mosque
JERUSALEM, May 1, 2018 (Xinhua) -- Workers build sunshades for the upcoming Muslim holy month of Ramadan inside al-Aqsa mosque compound in Jerusalem's Old city, on May 1, 2018 Xinhua/Guo Yu/IANS

Israel boasts of conquering Sheikh Jarrah in 1967 but it is not recognised by most of the international community. Since 1956, a total of 37 Palestinian families have settled down in Sheikh Jarrah. These families also include refugee families who were ethnically cleansed from their homes in Jaffa and Haifa in 1948.

But Jewish settlers have been trying to push the Palestinians out of their homes since 1970, post a law passed by the Israeli parliament that allowed Jews to reclaim East Jerusalem land owned by Jews before 1948.

Seventy years ago, the disputed land of Sheikh Jarrah was vacant. People [Mostly Palestinians] started settling down in this land after Israel's 1948 War of Independence. After the war, Palestinian Arab neighborhoods in the city's south and east came under the control of Jordan.

In the 1950s an agreement was signed by Jordan, the United Nations, and 28 refugee families. Accordingly, the Jordanian government provided the land and the United Nations offered cash to build the homes for 28 refugee families.

Palestinians claim that the terms of the agreement states that tenants must pay a symbolic fee for the first few years and then they will become owners of the property. Thus, they will not be called refugees and will not receive any benefits from the UN Relief and Works Agency.

But the problem lies in the fact that the Jordanian government did not formally transfer the ownership of the land to the Palestinians. This has made them vulnerable against Israel, which claims to have occupied the land from Jordan in 1967.

Association for Human Rights in Israel states that around 358,000 Palestinians live in East Jerusalem. In this land, Palestinians have residency rights but they are not considered citizens of Israel. Palestinians claim that this land is the the capital of a future Palestinian state.

Currently, families living in Sheikh Jarrah are experiencing the most difficult times as the Israeli police have blocked the plaza and a far-right Israeli group have marched into the areas chanting "death to Arabs". Police are seen using force and violence including quelling protesters [Palestinian] with stun grenades, water cannons and skunk water before removing the barriers.