Jerusalem: Israel’s fractious governing coalition faced a new split on Sunday when Arab-Israeli party Raam “suspended” its membership, after violence around a flashpoint Jerusalem holy site that wounded 170 people over the weekend.
The government - an ideologically disparate mix of left-wing, hardline Jewish nationalist and religious parties, as well as Raam - had already lost its razor-thin majority this month when a religious Jewish member quit in a dispute over leavened bread distribution at hospitals.
Since then, days of violence around Jerusalem’s Al Aqsa Mosque compound, sacred to both Muslims and Jews, put Raam under pressure to quit too.
“If the government continues its steps against the people of Jerusalem we will resign as a bloc,” Raam said in a statement.
The declaration came hours after more than 20 Palestinians and Israelis were wounded in incidents in and around the Al Aqsa Mosque compound, known to Jews as the Temple Mount.
The latest clashes take the number of wounded since Friday to more than 170, at a tense time when the Jewish Passover festival coincides with the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan.
They also follow deadly violence in Israel and the occupied West Bank starting in late March, in which 36 people have been killed.
Early on Sunday morning, police said “hundreds” of Palestinian demonstrators inside the mosque compound started gathering piles of stones, shortly before the arrival of Jewish visitors.
Jews are allowed to visit but not to pray at the site, the holiest place in Judaism and third-holiest in Islam.
Israeli police said its forces had entered the compound in order to “remove” the demonstrators and “re-establish order”.
The Palestinian Red Crescent said 19 Palestinians were injured, including at least five who were hospitalised. It said some had been wounded with rubber-coated steel bullets.