Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Al-Aqsa tensions continue


By J.J. Rhies - March 20, 2019
TAGS:
Section: [Main News]
Tags: [al-Aqsa] [Jerusalem]

Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa compound saw agitation on March 17, as scores of Jewish settlers and foreigners overtook the site, vexing Palestinian and other Muslim worshippers.
 
The settlers marched onto the grounds of Islam’s third holiest site, known to Israeli Jews as the Temple Mount, allegedly under “heavy protection of Israeli police,” according to the Jordan News Agency.
 
That same day, the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court ordered another shutdown of Bab al-Rahmeh, one of several gates into the holy site, amid a court case involving the Jerusalem Islamic Waqf - the administrator of both Al-Aqsa mosque and the Dome of the Rock.
 
In early March 2019, two senior religious officials were banned by Israeli police from entering the holy site - one week after both officials were arrested in raids on their Jerusalem homes.
 
A mosque guard was also banned.
 
Conflict continued in mid-March as dozens of worshippers were attacked by Israeli police after an alleged firebomb was found in the compound.
 
At least ten Palestinians were injured and five were and taken into custody, said Israeli NGO Ir Amim.
 
Ir Amim claimed Israel’s “disproportionately harsh response” could be seen “as a brash assertion of Israeli authority over the compound.”
 
They continued to state it “communicates a clear message of unilateral Israeli control.”
 
U.N. Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Nickolay Mladenov called for “restraint” on both sides.
 
“Places of worship are for prayer, not for provocations and violence,” he said in a statement on Twitter.
 
“The status quo must be fully respected by all.”  
 
Bab al-Rahmeh was previously closed by Israeli authorities in 2003 after claims were made the site was being used by an organisation with ties to Hamas.
 
It has seen a spate of closures and openings since then, though Palestinian and other Muslim worshippers have fought to continuing praying at the holy site.
 
Metal detectors, turnstiles and CCTV cameras were installed at the compound in July 2017 after Palestinian gunmen killed two Israeli Al-Aqsa guards.
 
The installation drew criticism from religious officials and Palestinian government authorities, saying it constituted an attempt by Israel to increase its control over the holy grounds.
 
Major General Yoav Mordechai, Israel’s Coordinator of Government Affairs in Palestine, told Al Jazeera at the time that the security measures served only “to ensure no one [could] enter with weapons again and carry out another attack.”
 
The Waqf called for a prayer boycott and civil disobedience in response to the security measures, and Israel capitulated to Palestinian protests—a rare move by the state and a celebrated victory for Palestinians.
 
The measures were fully removed by early August of 2017.
 
Shortly after the removal, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Palestinians who kill Jewish settlers should themselves face the death penalty.
 
Subsequently, a policy was introduced, preventing men over 50 from praying on the site.

Netanyahu’s claim and policy action resulted in further Palestinian protests, as reported by
The Intercept.

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