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Israeli forces detain 15 Palestinians in Jerusalem ahead of Jewish holiday

Oct. 2, 2016 3:00 P.M. (Updated: Oct. 2, 2016 8:00 P.M.)
JERUSALEM (Ma'an) -- Israeli forces raided several homes in occupied East Jerusalem’s Old City before dawn on Sunday, detaining at least 15 Palestinians for several hours before releasing them and banning most of them from the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound.

Nasir al-Qaws, the director of the Palestinian Prisoner’s Society (PPS) in Jerusalem said Israeli forces detained Zahra Qaws, and 14 other Palestinian youths who were later released. Of the 15 who were detained, 12 were banned from Al-Aqsa for 15 days.

Zahra Qaws and two others identified as Khalid Mihalis and Taysir Ajaj were released on the condition that they return for interrogation later Sunday morning.

Elsewhere, al-Qaws reported that a group of Israeli settlers assaulted eight cleaners who were working in the Jewish Quarter of the Old City. According to al-Qaws, the settlers held the Palestinians at gunpoint and physically assaulted them.

The arrests and assaults came on the first day of the Jewish holiday of Rosh Hashanah, amid calls by right-wing Jewish organizations for Israelis to visit the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound after they received assurances from the Israeli army that entry would be secured for every Jewish person wishing to visit the holy site, according to al-Qaws.

In a statement on Sunday, Israeli police spokesperson for Arabic media Luba al-Samri said that large numbers of Israeli police officers, border guards, and volunteers were deployed across Jerusalem, particularly the Old City and its outskirts, for the holiday.

Israeli police were also focused on “mixed towns” with “sensitive situations,” as well as densely populated areas such as shopping centers, markets, synagogues, and other holy places, in addition to “seam zones” in order to “avoid the infiltration of enemies.”

The Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, which sits just above the Western Wall plaza, houses both the Dome of the Rock and the Al-Aqsa Mosque.

The third holiest site in Islam, it is also venerated as Judaism's most holy place, as it sits where Jews believe the First and Second Temples once stood. The Second Temple was destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD.

Following Israel's illegal annexation of East Jerusalem in 1967, Israel has maintained a compromise with the Islamic trust that controls the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound to not allow non-Muslim prayer in the area.

Israeli forces regularly escort Jewish visitors to the site, however, leading to tension with Palestinian worshipers and residents of the area.

Meanwhile, Israeli authorities announced Saturday evening that a general closure would be imposed on all passage between the blockaded Gaza Strip and Israel, as well as between the occupied West Bank and Israel, over the Jewish holiday.

According to al-Samri, the closures began one minute after midnight on Sunday Oct. 2, and are to last until one minute before midnight on Tuesday Oct. 4.
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