JERUSALEM (AFP) – Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Saturday (April 24) called for “calm on all sides” after several nights of unrest in Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem.
The prime minister also warned that Israel remains “prepared for all scenarios” after dozens of rockets were fired from the Gaza Strip towards Israel overnight, prompting Israeli retaliatory air strikes.
He made the remarks after attending an emergency security meeting with senior officials, including army chief Aviv Kohavi, hours after Israeli warplanes struck Gaza early Saturday and a second night of clashes between Palestinians and police in Jerusalem.
Thirty-six rockets were launched, the Israeli army said, the most in a single night this year, after Gaza’s Islamist rulers Hamas voiced support for the east Jerusalem protests, which were fuelled by a march Thursday by far-right Jews.
“First of all we want to ensure that law and order are respected… now we demand compliance with the law and I call for calm on all sides,” Netanyahu said in a statement after the security talks.
The violence was the worst in years between Israeli police and Palestinians in the disputed Holy City.
There have been nightly disturbances since the start of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan on April 13, amid Palestinian anger over police blocking off access to the promenade around the walls of the Old City and a ban on gatherings.
“We uphold freedom of religion… for all residents and visitors of Jerusalem,” Netanyahu said.
A series of videos posted online have shown young Arabs attacking ultra-Orthodox Jews, and Jewish extremists taking to the streets to bully Arabs.
On Thursday, at least 125 people were injured when Palestinian protesters, angered by chants of “death to Arabs” from far-right Jewish demonstrators, clashed repeatedly with police.
Expressions of concern and calls for restraint have come from the United States, European Union, United Nations and other countries.
‘Playing with fire’
The United States, which has taken a more even-handed approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict since President Joe Biden took office in January urged “calm and unity”.