Fears of more Is­raeli-Pales­tinian vi­o­lence over sen­si­tive holy site

Ten­sions have risen through­out the past week

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

Stab­bings and clashes that left six peo­ple dead raised fears yes­ter­day of fur­ther Is­raeli-Pales­tinian vi­o­lence as ten­sions mount over new se­cu­rity mea­sures at a highly sen­si­tive Jerusalem holy site. Fri­day’s vi­o­lence-a stab­bing at­tack that killed three Is­raelis and clashes which left three Pales­tini­ans dead-was among the most se­vere in re­cent years.

There were con­cerns over whether it would spark wider un­rest as Is­raeli of­fi­cials grap­pled with how to ease ten­sions over the Haram AlSharif mosque com­pound, known to Jews as the Tem­ple Mount. The site in Jerusalem’s Old City that in­cludes the revered Al-Aqsa mosque and Dome of the Rock has been a ral­ly­ing cry for Pales­tini­ans. In 2000, then Is­raeli op­po­si­tion leader Ariel Sharon’s visit to the com­pound helped ig­nite the sec­ond Pales­tinian in­tifada, or up­ris­ing, which lasted more than four years.

Ten­sions have risen through­out the past week be­cause of new Is­raeli se­cu­rity mea­sures at the com­pound fol­low­ing an at­tack nearby that killed two po­lice­men on July 14. The mea­sures have in­cluded the in­stal­la­tion of metal de­tec­tors at en­trances to the site, which Pales­tini­ans re­ject since they view the move as Is­rael assert­ing fur­ther con­trol over it.

Is­raeli au­thor­i­ties say the July 14 at­tack­ers smug­gled guns into the holy site and emerged from it to shoot the po­lice­men. Fri­day’s main weekly Mus­lim prayers-which typ­i­cally draw thou­sands to Al-Aqsa-brought the sit­u­a­tion to a boil. In an­tic­i­pa­tion of protests, Is­rael barred men un­der 50 from entering the Old City for prayers, stok­ing fur­ther Pales­tinian anger. Clashes broke out be­tween Is­raeli se­cu­rity forces and Pales­tini­ans around the Old City, in other parts of an­nexed east Jerusalem and in the oc­cu­pied West Bank.

Ab­bas freezes con­tacts

Three Pales­tini­ans be­tween the ages of 17 and 20 were shot dead. The Pales­tinian Red Cres­cent re­ported 450 peo­ple wounded in Jerusalem and the West Bank, in­clud­ing 170 from live or rub­ber bul­lets. In the evening, a Pales­tinian broke into a home in a Jewish set­tle­ment in the West Bank dur­ing a Sab­bath din­ner and stabbed four Is­raelis, killing three of them.

The 19-year-old Pales­tinian was shot by a neigh­bor, an off-duty soldier, and was taken to hos­pi­tal. The Is­raeli army said he had spo­ken of the Jerusalem holy site and of dy­ing as a mar­tyr in a Face­book post. The Is­raelis killed in Neve Tsuf, north of Ra­mal­lah and also known as Halamish, were a grand­fa­ther and two of his chil­dren, an Is­raeli mil­i­tary of­fi­cial said. The grand­mother was wounded.

Is­raeli sol­diers raided the Pales­tinian’s nearby vil­lage of Ko­bar overnight and ar­rested his brother, an army spokes­woman said. Prepa­ra­tions were also be­ing made to de­mol­ish the at­tacker’s home, a mea­sure Is­rael reg­u­larly em­ploys be­cause it views it as a de­ter­rent, although hu­man rights groups say it amounts to col­lec­tive pun­ish­ment. Amid mount­ing pres­sure to re­spond to the dis­pute over the mosque com­pound, Pales­tinian pres­i­dent Mah­mud Ab­bas an­nounced late Fri­day he was freez­ing con­tacts with Is­rael. There was no im­me­di­ate pub­lic re­ac­tion from Is­raeli Prime Min­is­ter Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu.

‘For all Mus­lims’

“Vi­o­lence is likely to worsen ab­sent a ma­jor pol­icy shift,” said Ofer Zalzberg, a se­nior an­a­lyst at the In­ter­na­tional Cri­sis Group. “Ne­tanyahu’s mis­take was in­stalling the metal de­tec­tors with­out a Mus­lim in­ter­locu­tor. It is the co­er­cive char­ac­ter more than the se­cu­rity mea­sure it­self that made this un­ac­cept­able for Pales­tini­ans.”

Yes­ter­day, en­trances to Jerusalem’s walled Old City were open, but heavy se­cu­rity was in place. The metal de­tec­tors also re­mained at the entrance to the mosque com­pound. “Al Aqsa-that’s for the Mus­lims, not for the Jewish,” said Mo­ham­mad Haroub, a 42-yearold sou­venir shop owner. Like hun­dreds of oth­ers, he prayed out­side on Fri­day in­stead of pass­ing through the metal de­tec­tors. He added that it was not only an Is­raeliPales­tinian is­sue.

“Al Aqsa is not for Pales­tini­ans. It is for all Mus­lims.” Sharon Kopel, a 46-year-old Is­raeli tour guide lead­ing a group in the Old City, said he felt the metal de­tec­tors were un­nec­es­sary and po­lit­i­cally mo­ti­vated, but also crit­i­cized Pales­tini­ans for “lies” about Is­rael try­ing to take over Al-Aqsa. “I don’t think it’s re­ally ef­fec­tive any­way,” he said of the new se­cu­rity mea­sures. “But on the other hand... they brought guns into a holy place.” The Haram AlSharif/Tem­ple Mount is cen­tral to the Is­raeliPales­tinian con­flict. It lies in east Jerusalem, seized by Is­rael in the 1967 Six-Day War and later an­nexed in a move never rec­og­nized by the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity. It is con­sid­ered the third holi­est site in Is­lam and the most sa­cred for Jews. —AFP


JERUSALEM: Pales­tinian wor­ship­pers run for cover from tear­gas fired by Is­raeli forces out­side Jerusalem’s Old City in front of the Al-Aqsa mosque com­pound, af­ter Is­raeli po­lice barred men un­der 50 from entering the Old City for Fri­day Mus­lim prayers.

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