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Israeli forces storm Al-Aqsa for 2nd day in a row, dozens injured, 3 detained

June 27, 2016 10:49 A.M. (Updated: June 27, 2016 8:19 P.M.)
JERUSALEM (Ma’an) -- Dozens of Muslim worshipers were hit by rubber-coated bullets and suffered from tear gas inhalation at the hands of Israeli forces who stormed the Al-Aqsa mosque compound Monday morning and clashed with worshipers.

Israeli police spokeswoman Luba al-Samri said in a statement that three people were detained at the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound on Monday for allegedly throwing stones at Israeli forces.

Firas al-Dibs, spokesperson for the Islamic Endowment and Al-Aqsa mosque affairs told Ma’an that at least 35 people were hit with rubber-coated bullets in clashes with Israeli forces that lasted for approximately three and a half hours. The injured reportedly received treatment in clinics inside the compound.

The majority were hit in the lower extremities, while a few others were hit in the head, shoulder and chest, al-Dibs said.

Al-Dibs added that dozens were hurt by tear gas and others were attacked with pepper spray as Israeli soldiers and police officers forcibly evacuated worshipers from the compound to secure an area for Israeli extremists touring the compound.

He highlighted the fact that using tear gas and pepper spray on worshipers can cause serious problems, as people are fasting.

Israeli special forces stormed the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in occupied East Jerusalem on Monday morning for the second day in a row, evacuating Muslim worshipers, including elderly, to allow right-wing Jewish Israelis to tour the compound freely.

Director of the Islamic Endowment and Al-Aqsa Mosque affairs Sheikh Azzam al-Khatib told Ma’an that “it was Israeli Prime Minister (Benjamin) Netanyahu who made the decision to storm the Al-Aqsa Mosque.”

He explained that Israeli police confirmed at midnight on Sunday that the Moroccan Gate -- from which Jewish extremists usually enter the compound under military protection -- "would remain closed during the last ten days of the holy month of Ramadan."

For the past several years, al-Khatib added, Jewish worshipers and tourists had not been allowed into the Al-Aqsa compound during the last ten days of Ramadan, as the days are particularly sacred to Muslims.

The compound was reportedly quiet until 9 a.m, when Israeli special forces suddenly stormed the compound via the Moroccan Gate to "protect settlers” who came in. Israeli forces then chained shut all the gates of the southern mosque -- the main mosque in the compound -- while dozens of worshipers were still inside.

An Israeli police spokesperson was not immediately available for comment.

Monday's raid came a day after Israeli forces clashed with worshipers and injured up to 12 Palestinians when they raided the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound to protect a group of extremist Israelis visiting the site.

At least four people were detained from the compound during the clashes.

Though initial reports claimed that two of the detainees were South African nationals, the South African embassy told Ma'an on Monday that no South Africans were in fact arrested.

The Palestinian Red Crescent said Israeli forces fired rubber-coated steel bullets and tear gas canisters at a group of worshipers, and also hit them with batons. Five Palestinians were taken to the al-Maqasid Hospital in occupied East Jerusalem for treatment.

Prior to the past two days of raids and visits by Israeli extremists, Israel had closed the Al-Aqsa compound to Jewish and international visitors during the last 10 days of Ramadan for the past 14 years.

The United Nations cultural heritage body UNESCO adopted a resolution regarding Israeli actions in the occupied Palestinian territory earlier this year, condemning Israel -- “the occupying power” -- for restricting access to Al-Aqsa for Muslim worshipers, allowing right-wing Israeli extremists to storm the site under armed guard, and called on Israel to restore the status quo which designates Jordan the exclusive authority on the compound.

The resolution passed with 26 votes for and six against, with the United States, the United Kingdom and Germany voting against.

Netanyahu slammed the language of the draft decision for ignoring Jewish ties to the holy site, and announced that he would be holding an educational seminar for UN personnel on Jewish history.

The third holiest site in Islam, Al-Aqsa is also venerated as Judaism’s most holy place, as it sits where Jews believe the First and Second Temples once stood.

While Jewish visitation is permitted to the compound, non-Muslim worship is prohibited according to an agreement signed between Israel and the Jordanian government after Israel’s illegal occupation of East Jerusalem in 1967.

Despite this agreement, the Israeli authorities regularly allow Jewish visitors to enter the site -- often under armed guard. Such visits are typically made by right-wingers attempting to unsettle the status quo at the site, and coincide with restrictions on Palestinian access, including bans on entrance and detentions.

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