JERUSALEM – The first days of Ramadan were met with violent clashes between Muslim Palestinians and Israeli police officers and Orthodox Jews at two flashpoints: Jerusalem’s Old City near al-Asqa Mosque and the port city of Jaffa.

While Israeli security forces are typically deployed in abundance for crowd control and to prevent attacks against Jews in neighborhoods surrounding the Old City during Ramadan, this year has seen increased aggression early on.

In addition, a spate of individual attacks by Palestinians against Israelis have been uploaded to TikTok, drawing widespread condemnation by both Jewish and Arab Knesset members. In one video, a Palestinian is seen slapping two Orthodox teens on the Jerusalem light rail n what appears to be an unprovoked attack. Another video shows three young Arabs knocking a religious teen off his bike in Jerusalem.

The videos have gone viral and, unfortunately, so has the violence.

Tensions seem to have stemmed from Israel’s decision to cap the number of Ramadan worshippers at 10,000 at al-Aqsa Mosque, citing “high morbidity rates” from the coronavirus in Palestinian Authority areas. According to Haaretz newspaper, worshippers were further angered when denied entry if they did not have COVID vaccination documents.

While one report said Palestinians protested peacefully, police claim the rioters threw stones and shot fireworks at them in Sunday’s clashes. In some footage from Sunday, police can be seen using water cannons and stun grenades to disperse the crowd.

Israeli police said in a statement that “a large group of young rioters started disrupting public order near Damascus Gate and Zedekiah’s Cave.” Three Palestinians were arrested and accused of attacking officers at the scene.

On Monday, six Jewish suspects were arrested in Jerusalem, accused of assaulting an Arab man and hurling stones at vehicles. Witnesses said that the suspects specifically targeted victims after determining they had an Arabic accent. Twitter footage also showed dozens of Jewish youth near the Jaffa light-rail system holding Israeli flags and chanting, “death to Arabs.”

These attacks followed those of the previous evening, where Palestinians were seen striking ultra-Orthodox and religious Jewish pedestrians in East Jerusalem.

Tensions also flared in Jaffa following an attack of an Orthodox rabbi on Sunday, sparking retaliatory riots and two days of clashes between hundreds of Jewish and Arab Israelis. Several were arrested and at least one person was evacuated by ambulance.

Extreme right-wing Knesset members, Bezalel Smotrich, head of the Religious Zionist Party, and Itamar Ben Gvir, leader of the far-right Otzma Yehudit party,  toured the area near Damascus Gate to support the police.

“This arrogance, this brazenness, cannot simply be ignored. We are in a sovereign Jewish state,” Smotrich told reporters on location.

In a video from the scene, far-right Jewish activists were seen dancing in a circle, singing a song calling for revenge against Palestinians.

If tensions weren’t hot enough, a stifling heatwave has blanketed the region with searing temperatures and dry weather since the beginning of the Muslim fasting holiday.

During Ramadan, Muslims participate in a fast from food and water from sunrise to sunset each day for the entire month. Each evening at sundown, the fast is broken with a meal, iftar, and families and friends usually gather late into the night to celebrate with food and fireworks. Recent years have been relatively peaceful.

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