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Palestinians continue protests as Israeli police entrench security measures at Al-Aqsa

July 24, 2017 4:54 P.M. (Updated: July 24, 2017 9:15 P.M.)
JERUSALEM (Ma'an) -- Israeli forces continued to suppress Palestinian worshipers in occupied East Jerusalem on Monday, ten days into a civil disobedience movement in the city denouncing increased security measures at the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, as Israeli forces seemed to be entrenching the new procedures.

Israeli police officers forcibly removed Palestinians who had gathered outside of the Al-Aqsa compound’s Council Gate, Firas al-Dibs, the spokesperson for the Islamic endowment (Waqf) administering the holy site, told Ma’an.

Since Israeli authorities have installed metal detectors, turnstiles, and additional security cameras in the compound following a deadly shooting attack at Al-Aqsa on July 14, Palestinians in Jerusalem have refused to enter the compound, choosing instead to pray in the streets of the Old City outside of Al-Aqsa.

Palestinians have said the move 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.

Palestinians have protested the new measures by praying outside of Al-Aqsa’s gates since July 15, with mass demonstrations across the occupied territory on Friday erupting into violent clashes that left three protesters killed by Israelis.

Official Palestinian news agency Wafa said that dozens of Waqf employees were pushed away from the compound’s gates on Monday morning, where they have been staging vigils on a daily basis to denounce the security measures and the detention of dozens of Al-Aqsa workers.

Israeli police chief Roni al-Sheikh and Israeli Mayor of Jerusalem Nir Barakat meanwhile toured the gates of the Al-Aqsa compound on Monday under police escort.

Israeli forces also forcibly removed worshipers at the Council Gate during the dhuhr midday prayer, while Israeli engineers reportedly took measurements in the area.

Israeli forces were also seen installing new metal barriers at Al-Aqsa’s Lions’ Gate to delimit queues leading to the metal detectors in an apparent effort to organize crowds should Palestinians stop boycotting the security measures -- a worrying sign that Israeli authorities were considering keeping them in place despite Palestinian uproar.

Israeli police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld reported that Israeli forces carried out raids in the East Jerusalem neighborhoods of Silwan and Ras al-Amud on Sunday night, during which residents threw stones and fireworks at the officers.

Israeli police spokeswoman Luba al-Samri also reported that Israeli forces “restored peace to the area” surrounding Al-Aqsa on Sunday evening after dispersing demonstrators there, some of whom were reportedly throwing stones.

The continued police repression of demonstrations in Jerusalem came as United States envoy Jason Greenblatt and senior adviser to US president Donald Trump, Jared Kushner, were scheduled to arrive in Israel on Monday to communicate with Israeli, Palestinian, and Jordanian authorities to defuse tensions in Jerusalem, Israeli news outlet Ynet reported.

Meanwhile, Wafa reported that the United Nations Security Council was set to hold a special session on Monday to discuss the tensions in Jerusalem.

The Palestinian Ministry of Information released a statement on Sunday stating that the tensions surrounding Al-Aqsa in recent days came after months of increased Israeli violations at the compound.

According to the ministry, 14,806 Israelis entered the Al-Aqsa compound in 2016, reportedly the largest number of Israelis to enter the holy site since 1967, whereas some 8,000 Israelis have stormed the compound since the beginning of 2017.

The ministry went on to state that Israeli authorities had banned 258 Jerusalemite Palestinians from entering the Al-Aqsa compound for periods ranging from three to six months in 2016.

East Jerusalem was annexed by Israel in 1967, in a move never recognized by the international community, as 137 states recognize a Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital.

Following Israel’s occupation of East Jerusalem, Israel has maintained a compromise with the Jordanian trust that controls the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound to not allow non-Muslim prayers in the area. However, non-Muslims are permitted to visit the site during designated times.

Palestinians have long feared that Israel has been attempting to shake up the status quo at the holy site, in the shape of routine Jewish incursions on the site and right-wing Israeli calls to demolish the mosque and replace it with a third Jewish temple.
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