Scores of Palestinians hurt as Israel police storm Al Aqsa; UN warns action could amount to ‘war crimes’

At least 178 Palestinian protesters injured, 88 hospitalised after Israeli police dispersed worshippers at Al-Aqsa Mosque and elsewhere in occupied East Jerusalem, as weeks-long tensions between Israel and the Palestinians over Jerusalem soared again.

Earlier in the day, tens of thousands of Palestinian worshippers packed into the mosque on the final Friday of Ramadan and many stayed on to protest in support of Palestinians facing eviction from their homes on Israeli-occupied land claimed by Jewish settlers.

During the past week, residents of Sheikh Jarrah, as well as Palestinian and international solidarity activists, have attended night vigils to support the Palestinian families under threat of forced displacement.

Israeli border police and forces have attacked the sit-ins using skunk water, tear gas, rubber-coated bullets and shock grenades over the past few days. Dozens of Palestinians have been arrested.

The US State Department said it is “extremely concerned” about the violence in Jerusalem and called on Israeli and Palestinian officials “to act decisively” to deescalate tensions.

Ned Price, the department’s spokesman, posted the statement in his social media account late on Friday (02:35 GMT Saturday).

“There is no excuse for violence, but such bloodshed is especially disturbing now, coming as it does on the last days of Ramadan. This includes Friday’s attack on Israeli soldiers and reciprocal ‘price tag’ attacks on Palestinians in the West Bank, which we condemn in no uncertain terms.”

Price added that the US is also “deeply concerned” about the potential eviction of Palestinian families in Sheikh Jarrah and Silwan neighbourhoods of Jerusalem.

The United Nations has urged Israel to call off any forced evictions in Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem, warning that its actions could amount to “war crimes”.

“We call on Israel to immediately call off all forced evictions,” UN rights office spokesman Rupert Colville told reporters in Geneva.

“We wish to emphasise that East Jerusalem remains part of the occupied Palestinian territory, in which international humanitarian law applies,” Colville said.

“The occupying power… cannot confiscate private property in occupied territory,” he said, adding that transferring civilian populations into occupied territory was illegal under international law and “may amount to war crimes.”

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