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12 Palestinians injured as Israeli forces raid Al-Aqsa

June 26, 2016 11:28 A.M. (Updated: June 27, 2016 4:32 P.M.)
JERUSALEM (Ma'an) -- Israeli forces raided the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in occupied East Jerusalem Sunday morning, clashing with worshipers, injuring at least 12 Palestinians and detaining at least two Palestinians, as the Muslim holy month of Ramadan entered its final ten holiest days.

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.

Witnesses said Israeli forces toured the Al-Qabli mosque in the compound in the early morning, before opening the Moroccan Gate to allow a group of ultra-religious Jewish Israelis to enter the complex, which caused clashes between Palestinian worshipers and Israeli forces.

Al-Aqsa Compound Director Sheikh Omar al-Kiswani told Ma'an that 12 worshipers were injured with rubber-coated steel bullets, three in the head and the rest in the back and lower extremities.

Al-Kiswani explained that despite the fact that Israel had previously closed the Moroccan Gate, through which Israeli visitors and tourists enter, during the last 10 days of Ramadan for the past 14 years, it was opened today, sparking the clashes.

Al-Kiswani condemned the raids and targeting of worshipers during this period, and held Israeli police responsible for what happened.

Locals said Israeli forces assaulted Al-Aqsa guard Badir Badir, wounding him in the head.

Sheikh Azzam al-Khatib, director of the Islamic Endowment (Waqf) at Al-Aqsa, told Ma'an that Israeli authorities were trying to impose a new status quo at Al-Aqsa by allowing Israelis to enter the compound in the last ten days of Ramadan, during which time some Muslims stay at Al-Aqsa to pray for long periods of time.

He added that Israeli police insisted on allowing Israelis and tourists into the mosque today, which provoked worshipers.

Israeli police spokesperson Micky Rosenfeld confirmed to Ma'an that four Palestinians were arrested inside the Al-Aqsa compound Sunday for "causing disturbances," adding that after the arrests the tour for the group of Israelis "carried on as normal."

The Islamic Endowment slammed Israel for its continuing "provocations" on the holy site earlier this month, highlighting the extreme sensitivity surrounding Al-Aqsa during the month of Ramadan, and the danger of continuing illegal tours for extremist Israelis on the compound.

Visits by such right-wing groups are viewed as provocative by many Palestinians, as the Al-Aqsa Mosque and Dome of the Rock are symbols of East Jerusalem, the desired capital for a future Palestinian state, which has been under Israeli military occupation since 1967.

The Waqf said it held Israeli authorities “fully responsible for the repercussions of the ruthless policy that encourages extremism and irrationality.” They implored the Jordanian government -- who plays a role in governing the compound -- to intervene immediately and stop the “provocations and harassment.”

The statement criticized the fact that Palestinians were being banned from the holy site during Ramadan, “at a time when Muslims look forward to dedicating their time to fasting, worshiping, and other spiritual activities in Al-Aqsa Mosque -- one of the most sacred sites in Islam.”

The statement highlighted that Israel has revoked entry permits that were recently granted to tens of thousands Palestinians from the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip so they could access Jerusalem to worship during Ramadan.

Israeli police had also prevented Waqf officers from bringing Iftar meals into the compound for hundreds of worshipers who break their fasts inside the compound, the statement added, calling the incident “embarrassing and unprecedented.”

Correction: The story was edited on Monday, June 27, 2016 to reflect the fact that, in spite of initial reports, no South African nationals were reportedly detained at the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in East Jerusalem on June 26. Ma'an regrets the errors.
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