Is­raelis un­leash force as Al-Aqsa row es­ca­lates

The Star Early Edition - - WORLD -

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

PIC­TURE: EPA

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.

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