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Israeli police ban Waqf employee from Al-Aqsa amid continued tensions at holy site

Aug. 2, 2017 2:28 P.M. (Updated: Aug. 2, 2017 6:31 P.M.)
Israeli security forces take position on the roof of the al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem's old city during clashes with Palestinians on September 28, 2015 (AFP/Thomas Coex/File)
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- Israeli forces banned an employee of the Islamic Endowment, or Waqf -- in charge of running Al-Aqsa Mosque compound -- from entering the holy site on Wednesday, as Palestinians have continued to face routine harassment and detentions in the aftermath of a near two-week long civil disobedience campaign in occupied East Jerusalem in protest of Israel’s restrictive policies at the holy site.

According to Palestinian news agency Wafa, officials from the Waqf had said that Israeli police outside Al-Aqsa's gates had banned a Waqf guard from entering the premises.

The officials reportedly added that numerous Waqf employees have been banned from entering the holy compound, with Israeli police threatening them with arrest if found inside the holy site.

Officials noted that other Palestinians have also been harassed when attempting to enter the site, Wafa reported.

An Israeli police spokesperson was not immediately available to comment on the bans or alleged harassment.

On Tuesday, when some 1,046 Jewish visitors entered the holy site on the Jewish holiday of Tisha B’av, marking the largest number of Jews to visit the compound in the past five years, Wafa reported that a Palestinian man, identified as Muhammad Abu Sbeih from occupied East Jerusalem, was “assaulted” and detained by Israeli police when attempting to enter the compound from the Chain Gate.

Also on Tuesday, it was reported that the Waqf had officially formed committees to assess any Israeli damage on Al-Aqsa Mosque compound amid two weeks of unrest around the holy site. Investigations are also expected to be carried out into whether Israeli authorities had installed hidden cameras or listening devices in the mosque and its premises.

Israeli authorities shut down Al-Aqsa compound for almost three days following a deadly shooting attack on July 14, only to reopen it after having installed increased security measures. The Israeli move sparked widespread anger among Palestinians, who perceived the move as further infringement of Al-Aqsa, the third holiest site in Islam.

After two weeks of protests in which six Palestinians were killed in clashes, the security measures were lifted completely after noon prayers on Friday.

Dozens of Palestinians have since been detained by Israeli forces in the wake of the protests, with several being indicted for “incitement” over social media.

Palestinians have celebrated their successful protests around Al-Aqsa in the context of routine Israeli violations of Palestinian life and properties in East Jerusalem, which makes such victories seldom amid Israel's continued occupation of the territory.

Meanwhile, others have pointed out that Israel continues to restrict millions of Palestinians from accessing the holy site through its annexation of East Jerusalem -- a move never recognized by the international community -- and its half-century occupation of the West Bank and 10-year siege on Gaza, which have forced Palestinians outside of East Jerusalem and Israel to obtain Israeli permits in order to pray at Al-Aqsa.

Many Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip who are unable to obtain Israeli permits have never been able to visit Al-Aqsa Mosque.
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