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Israeli police detain 2 Al-Aqsa guards for allegedly assaulting Jewish visitors

July 27, 2016 5:13 P.M. (Updated: July 27, 2016 5:18 P.M.)
JERUSALEM (Ma’an) -- Israeli police detained Wednesday morning two Palestinian security guards at the Al-Aqsa Mosque in occupied East Jerusalem, as Israeli settlers toured the compound under armed escort.

Islamic Endowment (Waqf) spokesperson Firas al-Dibs said that Israeli police detained Hamza al-Nabali and Hamza al-Desse while they were on duty as guards in the mosque.

Another Palestinian was summoned for interrogation by Israeli police for allegedly assaulting and injuring Israeli settlers on the compound.

Israeli police spokesperson Luba al-Samri said in a statement that the two security guards were detained after they "assaulted" a Jewish tourist who was among a group of visitors touring the compound during the period allocated for "foreign non-Muslim" visitors.

Eyewitnesses told Ma’an that four Jewish Israeli settlers had been touring the holy site escorted by Israeli police, when they started picking olives from the trees once they
reached the Bab al-Rahma entrance to the compound. When Palestinian worshipers tried to stop them, the Israelis assaulted them, according to the witnesses.

While Israeli police claimed that the visitors were foreign tourists, some Israeli media sites reported they worked for the Israel Antiquities Authority.

Compound Director Sheikh Omar al-Kiswani condemned the raid into the holy site, saying it didn’t matter if they were Israelis or foreigners..

He refuted Israeli police’s claims against Al-Aqsa Mosque’s guards, saying that “no assault has been reported by a Palestinian against any tourist in the Al-Aqsa Mosque during the last several years.”

He described the events as “altercations” between Palestinian worshipers and Israeli settlers, insisting the Palestinian guards merely attempted to intervene and diffuse the situation.

In a separate statement, al-Samri said Israeli forces overnight released from custody a Palestinian resident from the Silwan neighborhood -- just south of the Old City -- and banned him from entering the mosque. She identified him as Ahmad al-Abassi, said to be in his fifties.

Tensions around Al-Aqsa on Wednesday came after some 53 Palestinians -- 11 of them minors -- were arrested overnight Tuesday in a massive detention campaign involving hundreds of Israeli police and border guard officers deployed throughout occupied East Jerusalem.

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, 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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