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Dozens of Palestinians detained in East Jerusalem following Al-Aqsa unrest

July 3, 2016 4:30 P.M. (Updated: July 4, 2016 4:06 P.M.)
JERUSALEM (Ma'an) -- Israeli forces detained 10 Palestinians, including a journalist, in overnight raids Saturday in occupied East Jerusalem, amid increasing tension on the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in the Old City.

Head of the Jerusalem Committee for Families of Prisoners Amjad Abu Asab told Ma’an that Israeli police detained 10 Palestinians, nine of which were from the Old City.

Two Old City residents were identified as former prisoners Ahmad Ghazala and Laith Shalabi. Israeli forces also detained Mamun Hashim, Shadi Sidir, Jihad Salim, Muhammad Jabir, Mahmoud Abd al-Ghani and his son Amjad Abd al-Ghani, as well as another unidentified Jerusalemite.

Israeli forces also detained journalist Amjad Arafah after raiding his house in Ras al-Amoud southeast of the Old City. Arafah was called for interrogation on Saturday and released, only to be detained again on Sunday.

Israeli spokesperson Luba al-Samri confirmed in a statement Sunday morning that nine Palestinians had been detained overnight in Jerusalem in connection with “disturbing order” and throwing stones in the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound as well as in the Silwan neighborhood south of the Old City.

She added that some of the Palestinians had been detained for suspected involvement in an assault of an Israeli police officer Saturday night at Damascus Gate, an entrance to the Old City, where the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound is located.

Hundreds of thousands of Muslim worshipers had been present in Al-Aqsa and around the Old City on Saturday night for Leilat al-Qadr, on one of the last days of the holy month of Ramadan.

Al-Samri said at the time that there had been no injuries during the limited clashes that broke out around midnight when "Muslim" youths -- likely referring to local Palestinian youth -- threw rocks at Israeli police forces outside of Damascus Gate.

Her statement Sunday said that since “disorder” began last week at Al-Aqsa and the old city, 58 suspects had been detained and were still being investigated as police continued to search the area for remaining suspects.

Reports emerged on Thursday that Israeli police formed a new unit to carry out detentions across Jerusalem. However, Israeli police spokesperson Micky Rosenfeld on Saturday denied any such unit had been established but noted there had been an increase in detentions over recent weeks in connection to unrest at Al-Aqsa.

Tensions increased on the compound amid the Muslim holy month of Ramadan as right-wing Israelis toured the site under armed guard.

Because of the sensitive nature of the Al-Aqsa compound, Israel maintains a compromise with the Islamic trust that controls it to not allow non-Muslim prayers in the area. However, Israeli forces regularly escort Jewish visitors to the site, leading to tensions with Palestinian worshipers.

For years, non-Muslims and tourists have been completely banned from the compound during the final ten holiest days of Ramadan. However, right-wing Israelis toured the site for two consecutive days last week, sparking clashes with Palestinian youth that were violently suppressed by Israeli police.

Israeli authorities responded by officially closing Al-Aqsa to non-Muslim visitors for the remaining days of Ramadan, however reports of Palestinian youth throwing stones at Israeli military targets -- and in one instance at Jewish worshipers at the neighboring Western Wall -- have continued.
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