Palestinians clash with Israeli forces outside al-Aqsa

July 19, 2017

Tensions grow in occupied East Jerusalem after Israel implements new security measures at al-Aqsa compound.

Questions about control of al-Aqsa frequently lead to outbursts of fighting [AP]
Palestinian worshippers have clashed with Israeli security forces outside a gate to the Old City in Jerusalem, as tensions continue over the new security measures implements at the al-Aqsa Mosque compound. 

Israeli security forces were seen dragging a worshipper, while another police officer appeared to punch a Palestinian man during the confrontation on Wednesday.

Stun grenades were fired as police forces tried to disperse the crowd, while several people were seen throwing objects in response, according to Al Jazeera’s Harry Fawcett, who was at the scene of the clashes in East Jerusalem.  

“We have another [round] of violence here right in front of al-Aqsa compound. This shows you how sensitive this period is,” our correspondent said.  

Security forces have also cleared the area outside of al-Aqsa compound, ordering vehicles out, and the situation have since calmed down, he said.

Wednesday’s confrontation followed clashes between Israeli forces and protesters after evening prayers in the occupied city on Tuesday.

President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah party is also calling for a Day of Rage after metal detectors and turnstiles were installed at the entrance of al-Aqsa following Friday’s deadly shoot-out that left two Israeli security forces and three Israeli Palestinians dead.

Also on Wednesday, Jerusalem’s top Muslim cleric has called on all of the city’s mosques to be closed on Friday to protest against the new Israeli security measures.

Grand Mufti Muhammad Hussein told reporters that Palestinian Muslims should all gather outside the gates of the al-Aqsa Mosque for the weekly Friday prayer.

The Hamas and Islamic Jihad movements have also called for protests on Wednesday in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Sheikh Azzam Khatib Tamimi, head of the Waqf, the Islamic authority in charge of al-Aqsa, said earlier on Wednesday that the authority had instructed “imams in all the mosques in the city of Jerusalem not to hold prayers in their mosques and to come to al-Aqsa”.

The Waqf also said in a statement on Wednesday that “the longer Israel delays the removal of the metal detectors, the worse it is going to get”.

Palestinians have already been performing prayers outside the compound in protest since it was reopened on Sunday after a two-day closure.

Al Jazeera’s Fawcett said the protests are not just about the implementation of the new security measures by Israel.

“This isn’t about one isolated installation of a security measure,” Fawcett said.

An Israeli police appears to punch a Palestinian man as clashes continued on Wednesday [AP]
“For Palestinians this is about the fact that Israeli forces are an occupying force and the potential that Israel is in contravention of the UN articles guaranteeing freedom of worship, guaranteeing that occupying forces do not change any part of the status quo within the city.

Also on Wednesday, Israeli authorities closed the compound to Jewish visitors after what they call a violation by some Jewish individuals who appeared to have prayed at the site, which is forbidden to non-Muslim worshippers.

Under the status quo, Muslims are given religious control over the compound and Jews are allowed to visit but not pray there.

On Friday, Benjamin Netanyahu stressed that he did not want to alter the status quo, but Palestinians fear Israel is trying to retake control of the site by stealth.

The site houses the al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock shrine, Islam’s third holiest site after Mecca and Medina, as well as the ruins of the Biblical Jewish Temple.

Questions about control of the site frequently lead to outbursts of fighting.

After Friday’s alleged attack, Israel closed off the area, preventing Friday prayers at the al-Aqsa Mosque for the first time in decades.