Violence in Jerusalem strains Israeli coalition government

(Corrects grammar in first paragraph)

JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Clashes in Jerusalem that have stoked tensions during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan spread on Sunday, triggering 18 arrests and further straining Israel’s coalition government.

Israeli riot police clashed with Palestinians who set off fireworks in the alleys of the walled Old City after Jews visited a controversial holy site.

Several passengers on two buses were lightly injured when stone-throwing Palestinians smashed the vehicles’ windows. And a small group of Jewish worshipers was attacked.

Sunday’s clashes were less violent than those two days earlier at the Al-Aqsa mosque compound in Jerusalem, but they were enough to prompt a small but important Arab party to reconsider its membership in the ruling coalition of the Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, who no longer has a majority in power. parliament.

The Joint List – the first party from the country’s 21% Arab minority to join an Israeli government – ​​said it was suspending its membership in the government over Israel’s handling of the violence in Al-Aqsa and that she would consider officially resigning if things didn’t change.

Bennett’s coalition controls 60 of the 120 seats in Parliament, including four from the Joint List.

Some political commentators said the announcement was a symbolic gesture aimed at easing pressure on party leaders during the crisis and that the problem could be resolved by the time Parliament resumes next month.

The Old City is in East Jerusalem, which Israel captured in the 1967 war and which the Palestinians seek to make the capital of a future state.

Tensions over Jerusalem fueled an 11-day war last May between Israel and Islamist Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip.

Bennett lost his razor-thin parliamentary majority this month after an MP from his nationalist party resigned.

(Writing by Dan Williams, editing by Helen Popper and Nick Macfie)