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Increased restrictions around Al-Aqsa Mosque compound

Oct. 8, 2015 5:44 P.M. (Updated: Oct. 8, 2015 6:43 P.M.)
Israeli security forces take position on the roof of the Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem's old city during clashes with Palestinians on Sept. 28, 2015. (AFP/Thomas Coex)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday issued a ban on all Israeli Knesset members and governmental ministers from entering the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in an attempt to ease tensions at the site, Israeli media reported.

Initial reports said only Jewish members of the Knesset would be banned from entering the holy site, but it was later reported on Thursday that the PM's office announced all Knesset members and ministers would be banned -- including Palestinians and Muslims.

Joint Arab List MK Jamal Zahalqa attempted to enter the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound following the announcement on Thursday, but was turned away by Israeli forces, the Jerusalem Post reported.

“Who is Netanyahu in this context? There is no rule that says the prime minister can bar MKs from entering a holy place,” Zahalqa said to an Israeli police officer at the scene, the Jerusalem Post reported.

According to the post, MKs are by law, granted freedom of movement.

The law reportedly states that “no instruction banning or limiting access to any place in the country, that is not private property, may apply to MKs, unless it is for reasons of state security or a military secret.”

However, as the banning is an attempt to ease recent tensions at the flash-point site, it could be argued that the ban falls under state security.

On Saturday, following a string of violence around occupied East Jerusalem's Old City, which houses the Al Aqsa Mosque compound, Israeli authorities announces a 48-hour ban on all Palestinians from entering the Old City walls, with an exception to those who live within the site.

The two-day ban however was extended and was still in place on Thursday morning, six days later, an Israeli police spokesperson said.

The blanket ban on Palestinians entering the site is unprecedented.

'Preventative measures'

Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu last month “declared war” on stone throwers before implementing the first of many measures in the Jerusalem area that critics are calling collective punishment of Palestinians.

The recent bans around East Jerusalem come as Israeli intelligence delivered an order Thursday banning a former Palestinian prisoner from entering Jerusalem for six months.

Amjad Abu Asab, head of the Jerusalem prisoners’ families committee, said that Israeli intelligence delivered the order to ex-prisoner Anan Najib shortly after he was released from a month-long interrogation period in the Russian Compound detention center.

In addition to restrictions against Palestinians, Israeli police have installed metal detectors at checkpoints around the Old City of occupied East Jerusalem as a "preventative measure" against knife attacks, Israeli army radio said Thursday.

Israeli police have also decided to add an Arabic desk to the cyber security unit in order to monitor activity on Palestinian social media networks and identify potential attackers, army radio added.

The security measures were announced after a Palestinian stabbed and seriously injured an Orthodox Jewish man East Jerusalem on Thursday.

The incident was the latest in a series of knife attacks against Israelis.

On Wednesday, an 18-year-old Palestinian was shot four times in her chest by an Israeli civilian after stabbing a 35-year-old Israeli man in occupied East Jerusalem's Old City.

A Palestinian man stabbed and injured an Israeli civilian in the city of Petah Tikva, east of Tel Aviv, Israeli police said, while another Palestinian was killed after reportedly stabbing an Israeli soldier and stealing his gun in Kiryat Gat in southern Israel.

Two Israelis were killed in stabbing attacks in the Old City on Saturday night and the Palestinian suspects were shot dead.
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