Israelis unleash force as Al-Aqsa row escalates
JERUSALEM: Civil disobedience demonstrations in front of the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound were again violently attacked by Israeli forces on Saturday night, a week after Palestinians started praying outside the compound’s gates in protest at new Israeli security measures installed at the holy site.
Yesterday morning, Palestinians reiterated their rejection of all forms of security inspection as an obstacle to their ability to worship freely, including an alternative to replace the new metal detectors, which worshippers have been boycotting, with “smart cameras”.
After clashes broke out following the midday, afternoon, and evening prayers on Saturday, dozens more were injured at the Lions’ Gate, entrance to the compound coinciding with the Ishaa, night-time prayer, as confrontations with Israeli forces were reported across occupied East Jerusalem and the West Bank.
A 23-year-old Palestinian was shot dead during clashes overnight in the town of al-Eizariya in the Jerusalem district of the West Bank.
International concern over the escalating crisis has mounted.
Meanwhile, Israeli police fired sound bombs and rubber bullets at Palestinian worshippers in Jerusalem’s Old City, chased them on horseback, beat them with batons, and attempted to block off and close the area completely for the Ishaa prayer.
Worshippers continued to try to get as close as possible to the Lions’ Gate and prayed in the surrounding streets, while residents of the Old City were able to pray within the city walls nearer to the mosque.
After the prayer ended, Israeli forces fired sound bombs at worshippers in different areas in occupied East Jerusalem, triggering clashes in which Palestinian youths responded by throwing rocks and Molotov cocktails at Israeli forces.
The Palestinian Red Crescent said that its medical crews provided treatment to some 63 Palestinians for injuries sustained from tear gas, sound bombs, and rubber-coated steel bullets.
Israeli police spokesperson Luba al-Samri said Israeli forces dispersed Palestinians who were throwing rocks and Molotov cocktails at Israeli forces overnight in occupied East Jerusalem’s Silwan and Ras al-Amud neighbourhoods.
Silwan is the hometown of Muhammad Sharaf, who was shot and killed by an Israeli settler in Ras al-Amud during clashes across Jerusalem and the West Bank that left two other young Palestinian men killed and hundreds of others injured on Friday.
Meanwhile, Sheikh Muhammad Hussien, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, reiterated his rejection of all new Israeli security measures at Al-Aqsa Mosque.
Three Palestinians assailants and two Israeli policemen were killed in a shoot-out on July 14 inside the compound, which triggered the new Israeli security measures, which included metal detectors, additional surveillance cameras, and turnstiles.
Palestinians have seen the new security measures at Al-Aqsa as an attempt by Israeli authorities to impose greater control over important sites in the occupied Palestinian territory and normalising heightened measures by Israeli forces targeting Palestinians. The UN Security Council is set to hold an emergency meeting today to discuss the crisis.
Israel’s intelligence service, the Shin Bet, and the Co-ordinator of Government Activities in the Territories have both expressed reservations to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu about the use of metal detectors at Al-Aqsa, arguing that the anger sparked by the measures might outweigh the security benefits of keeping them.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who said he had severed all ties with Israel in response to the crisis, is in talks with the Jordanians, who have custodianship over the holy site.
The Middle East Quartet Russia, – the US, the EU and the UN – expressed deep concern over the escalating tensions and violence. Pope Francis called for dialogue to help restore peace. – Additional reporting by Xinhua and Reuters
Palestinians pray on the street near Lions’ Gate in the Old City of Jerusalem closely watched by Israeli security forces during a mass prayers on Friday.