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Violence Between Palestinians, Israeli Police Draws Global Concern


This morning, we've been reporting on the clashes between Palestinians and the Israeli police, clashes that have left hundreds of Palestinians injured. The conflict continued this morning at the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound at the center of Jerusalem, the Old City, indeed. And the latest sign that things are escalating, there, sirens going off - rocket warning sirens that can be heard across the city.

NPR's Daniel Estrin joins us now from Jerusalem. Daniel, first off, I just referenced those sirens. What does that mean?

DANIEL ESTRIN, BYLINE: Well, we are receiving reports from the Israeli military that seven rockets were fired from the Gaza Strip toward Jerusalem and a city nearby Jerusalem, Beit Shemesh, one of those rockets intercepted by the military. I was on the street here in Jerusalem where Israeli - young religious Jewish nationalists were gathered with flags. They were marching through the streets on Jerusalem Day, a day that that celebrates Israel's capture of Palestinian areas of the city. And we heard those air raid sirens. Some ran for cover. I ran behind a wall and a trash bin. We heard booms, and the Islamist group Hamas in Gaza has claimed responsibility. It's the climax of a very tumultuous day.

MARTIN: So do I hear you - and where you're at now, are things stable?

ESTRIN: Well, at the moment, the police has asked all of the religious nationalists - Jewish participants to disperse. So - so far, at the moment, things sound quiet. But we're still waiting to see what comes of this. So far, no reports of any injuries or damage.

MARTIN: So asking them to disperse because there was this annual march of Israeli ultranationalists. This was supposed to happen today, right?

ESTRIN: That's right. It was - it came at a very sensitive time because this is the end of Ramadan. This morning, about 300 Palestinians were wounded in clashes with Israeli police around the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound and the walled Old City. And this march was supposed to take place this year, like every year, marching through the Old City, through the Muslim quarter. But the Israeli government decided, in order to reduce tensions, to reroute that march. And in response - in protest, the organizers canceled the march, saying that this was Israel giving in to terror.

MARTIN: Well - it's always complicated, Daniel, but what's the impetus for these clashes right now? What's the issue at hand?

ESTRIN: We've seen these tensions build up over the last month. There was a year of pandemic closures, then the city opened up. And Palestinian crowds were gathering outside the Old City in a plaza like they do every year for Ramadan. And police were trying - what they say - trying to attempt crowd control. And Palestinians saw that as an affront to their religion, as an affront to their very existence in the city. And so we've seen nightly skirmishes, young boys, young teens throwing rocks, throwing water bottles at police who spray this foul-smelling water, who fire stun grenades. And it's left this celebratory Ramadan plaza reeking every day and chaotic. And then that has just intensified from there - Israeli-Palestinian street fights, ultranationalists in the streets.

MARTIN: We will continue to follow it. NPR's Daniel Estrin reporting from Jerusalem on these clashes between the Israeli police and Palestinians. Daniel, thank you for your reporting.

ESTRIN: Thanks, Rachel. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Rachel Martin is a host of Morning Edition, as well as NPR's morning news podcast Up First.
Daniel Estrin is NPR's international correspondent in Jerusalem.