Israeli forces hit Hamas positions early Saturday after it said three rockets were fired from the Gaza Strip.

Smokes and flames rise after Israeli war planes carried out airstrikes over Gaza city, Gaza on April 24, 2021
Smokes and flames rise after Israeli war planes carried out airstrikes over Gaza city, Gaza on April 24, 2021 (AA)

Israeli warplanes have struck the Gaza city following a second night of clashes between Palestinians and police in Occupied East Jerusalem.

Thirty-six rockets were launched on early Saturday, the Israeli army said, the most in a single night this year, after Gaza's rulers Hamas voiced support for the east Jerusalem protests, which were fuelled by a Thursday march by far-right Jews.

Washington said it was "deeply concerned" by the escalating violence, while the European Union appealed for restraint.

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".

Tensions have been running high in Occupied East Jerusalem over a ban on gatherings, and a series of videos posted online showing 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.

Police scuffles with Palestinians

Israeli police scuffled with Palestinians for a second night in occupied East Jerusalem, amid mounting tensions over a ban on gatherings and anger fuelled by videos posted of attacks.

The fresh violence came after clashes overnight Thursday, in which the Palestinian Red Crescent reported at least 105 wounded, of whom around 20 were transferred to hospital, while Israeli police said 20 officers had been injured.

It flared on Thursday, outside one of the entrances to the walled Old City, after police had barred access to some areas where Palestinians usually gather in large numbers during the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan.

READ MORE: Over 100 Palestinians hurt in clashes with Israel police in east Jerusalem

Tensions were fuelled by the arrival of far-right Jews at the end of a march during which they harassed Palestinians and chanted "death to Arabs."

After calm during daylight hours on Friday, scuffles broke out again as thousands of Muslim worshippers left the Al Aqsa Mosque compound after evening prayers, when they found themselves confronted by dozens of armed police, including officers on horseback.

Clashes broke out between worshippers and police, with water bottles hurled at officers who fired stun grenades to disperse the crowd.

Hundreds of Palestinians also gathered on Friday at the Qalandiya crossing between Jerusalem and the city of Ramallah in the occupied West Bank, police said.

There have been nightly disturbances in the area since the start of Ramadan on April 13, with Palestinians outraged over police blocking access to the promenade around the walls, a popular gathering place after the end of the daytime Ramadan fast.

Meanwhile, three rockets were fired from the Gaza on Friday night towards southern Israel, the army said.

One rocket was intercepted by Israel's Iron Dome air defence system and the two others shot down near the barrier between the Gaza and the Jewish state, which is heavily guarded by the Israeli army.

'Like a war zone' 

Police said that after night prayers at Al Aqsa Mosque on Thursday "hundreds of rioters began disrupting the order violently, including throwing stones and objects at forces."

Stun grenades were fired and water cannons deployed to disperse the "rioters" and force them towards less central areas of occupied East Jerusalem, they said.

"It was like a war zone; it was dangerous," a Palestinian who was near the clashes outside the Old City told AFP, of the violence on Thursday. "That's why I left the place."

On Thursday night, the Israeli far-right group Lehava organised a march ending opposite the Old City attended by hundreds to protest the anti-Jewish violence.

Police erected barriers to keep them from entering the mainly Palestinian location.

'Wave of attacks against Palestinian civilians'

The Palestinian presidency condemned "the growing incitement by extremist far-right Israeli settler groups advocating for the killing of Arabs, which in recent days manifested in a wave of attacks against Palestinian civilians in the Old City."

A statement late Thursday on the official Palestinian news agency Wafa urged the international community to protect Palestinians from the "settler" attacks, which it alleged were encouraged by the Israeli government.

The Ezzedine al Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of the Hamas movement that rules the Gaza, voiced support to occupied East Jerusalem Palestinians.

"The spark you light today will be the wick of the explosion to come in the face of the enemy," it said in a statement.

US alarmed at Jerusalem violence

The United States on Friday voiced alarm over scuffles in Jerusalem and criticised "hateful" rhetoric after far-right Jews shouted slogans against Palestinians.

"We are deeply concerned by the escalation of violence in Jerusalem," State Department spokesman Ned Price said.

"The rhetoric of extremist protestors chanting hateful and violent slogans must be firmly rejected," he wrote on Twitter.

Jordan condemned the "provocations" carried out by the "extremist" Jewish groups, calling on Israel to prevent such incidents and lift restrictions on access to Al Aqsa Mosque.

The UN envoy for the Middle East peace process, Tor Wennesland, called on Thursday on "all sides" to "de-escalate tensions and maintain calm."

The European Union also called for "restraint."

Moshe Lion, mayor of Israel-occupied Jerusalem, said he tried to cancel the Lehava march, but police told him it was legal, noting that “dozens” of Jews who attacked Arabs had been arrested in the past two weeks.

Speaking with public broadcaster Kan, Lion said he was in talks with leaders of the Palestinian East Jerusalem neighbourhoods "to end this pointless violence."

READ MORE: Israeli police beat lawmaker at eviction protest in east Jerusalem

Source: TRTWorld and agencies