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Officers injured, 40 arrested in Jerusalem as hardline Jewish group and Palestinians clash with police during Ramadan

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A fire burns as members of the Israeli security forces deploy during clashes with Palestinian protesters outside the Damascus Gate in Jerusalem's Old City, April 22, 2021. AHMAD GHARABLI/AFP/Getty

Tel Aviv — There was heightened security in Jerusalem on Friday after a night of violent clashes involving far-right Jewish Israelis, Palestinians and police left dozens injured and under arrest. Additional police forces were deployed near the Old City to brace for what many feared would be a continuation of the violence following Friday prayers as Muslims mark the holy month of Ramadan.

The holy month always brings more worshippers to pray at the mosques in the holy city, and the past week has seen a series of violent assaults on Palestinians after TikTok videos showed Palestinians assaulting Orthodox Jews near Damascus Gate, the entrance to Jerusalem's Old City.

The violence kicked off on Thursday night after an anti-Arab far-right Jewish activist group, called LEHAVA, organized a march in East Jerusalem. The group called it a march to "restore Jewish dignity," and urged people to join, and to arm themselves.

They marched through the streets chanting "death to Arabs" and clashed with police as they tried to enter a Palestinian neighborhood.

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Israeli security forces stand guard as Jewish protesters gather outside the Damascus Gate in Jerusalem, April 22, 2021. AHMAD GHARABLI/AFP/Getty

Palestinian activists called on social media for people to come to Damascus Gate to stage a counterprotest against the "settler thugs." Palestinians who heeded the call also clashed with police, throwing stones and other objects in various locations throughout the night.

Police used "Skunk" water cannon — which douse people with strong, unpleasantly-scented liquid — and stun grenades on both groups. The police said 20 officers were injured and at least 40 people were arrested amid the chaos, but the Palestinian Red Crescent organization reported that more than 100 Palestinians were treated for injuries, too, including 22 who required hospitalization.

The U.S. Embassy in Israel, located in Jerusalem, posted a message to Twitter voicing deep concern about the violence and urging "all responsible voices" to "promote and end to incitement."

The government of neighboring Jordan, meanwhile, called on Israeli officials to respect international law and, as the "occupying power" in East Jerusalem, put a stop to "provocations and aggression" against the city's Palestinian residents, according to the Israeli newspaper Haaretz.

Haaretz said Israel's Public Security Minister Amir Ohana, a member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud party, had issued a statement on Friday condemning attacks against Jews, but making no mention of Palestinians also being targeted, despite the Red Crescent saying dozens were injured.  

Damascus Gate is the main entrance to the Old City used by Muslims entering to pray at the revered mosque on Temple Mount, or the al-Aqsa compound as it's known in Islam. The site has been the scene of many clashes between Palestinian protesters and Israeli police.

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