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Israeli forces wound 79 in Jerusalem, detain activists a day before mass Al-Aqsa protest

July 21, 2017 11:39 A.M. (Updated: July 21, 2017 9:46 P.M.)
JERUSALEM (Ma'an) -- Israeli forces violently repressed demonstrations held by thousands of Palestinians in the Old City of occupied East Jerusalem on Thursday, injuring at least 79 people, and detained Palestinian political leaders and activists ahead of expected clashes on Friday.

Thousands of Muslim worshipers gathered outside the Lions’ Gate leading to the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound to perform the maghrib prayer at sundown on Thursday, and to denounce the recent escalation in Israeli security measures at the religious site following a deadly attack in the area a week earlier.

Three Palestinian citizens of Israel were shot dead while carrying out a shooting attack in East Jerusalem's Al-Aqsa Mosque compound on July 14, in which two Israeli border police officers -- also Palestinian citizens of Israel -- were killed.

In the wake of the attack, Israeli forces shut down the Al-Aqsa compound for two days, only to reopen it after having installed security cameras, metal detectors, and turnstiles at the entrances of the compound, in what Palestinians have said is the latest instance of Israeli authorities using Israeli-Palestinian violence as a means of furthering control over important sites in the occupied Palestinian territory and normalizing repressive measures against Palestinians.

In protest of the measures, Palestinian worshipers have refused to enter the Al-Aqsa compound, praying instead in the streets adjacent to the holy site.

Israeli forces fired stun grenades and rubber-coated steel bullets on Thursday evening when a number of religious figures were delivering speeches to the crowd, witnesses told Ma’an.

As Israeli forces attempted to evacuate the demonstrators, dozens of Palestinian youths remained in the area to perform isha prayers -- the fifth and last Muslim prayer of the day -- despite Israeli officers pushing them away and hitting them with batons.

Israeli police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said in a statement on Thursday evening that police forces “dispersed” people at Lions’ Gate who he said had thrown stones at Israeli officers, without providing further details.

Palestinian Red Crescent paramedic Muhammad al-Fitiyani told Ma’an that the Red Crescent treated 79 people for wounds sustained due to Israeli rubber-coated steel bullets, stun grenades, and batons.

Al-Fitiyani added that 37 of the wounded had to be taken to hospitals for treatment, three of whom were in moderate to critical state after having been injured in the chest and head.

The Jerusalem Post reported that five Israeli officers were injured on Thursday.

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Al-Fityani stated that four Red Crescent medics were also among the wounded, as Israeli forces prevented ambulances from reaching Lions’ Gate and accessing worshipers, forcing paramedics to carry the wounded on foot to the ambulances in the nearby neighborhood of Wadi Joz. Al-Fityani went on to say that Israeli officers held some paramedics at gunpoint and threw a stun grenade in their direction.

Photojournalist Sinan Abu Mizar was also wounded on Thursday, as al-Fitiyani said that the Palestinian Red Crescent had treated 183 people injured in clashes in Jerusalem in the past week.

Meanwhile, Muhammad Mahmoud, a lawyer for prisoners’ rights group Addameer, said that Israeli forces had detained nine Palestinians during overnight raids in Jerusalem, including political leaders and prominent activists.

Mahmoud identified the detained as Hatem Abd al-Qadir, a Fatah party official in Jerusalem; Adnan Ghaith, a Fatah secretary in Jerusalem; Amjad Abu Asab, the head of the Jerusalem Committee for Families of Prisoners; Hani Ghaith; Nasser Ajaj; Moussa al-Abbasi; Muhammad Daoud Abu al-Hawa; Nasser al-Hedmi; and Zuheir Zaanin.

Locals said that Israeli soldiers also detained a Palestinian identified as Rami al-Fakhouri on Thursday afternoon.

Further escalation of tensions were expected on Friday, as the Waqf, the Islamic endowment administering Al-Aqsa, called on all mosques in Jerusalem to be closed that day and for all Muslim worshipers in the city to head towards Al-Aqsa, as Israeli forces increased their presence in the Old City.
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