Tensions were running high in occupied East Jerusalem on Friday as thousands of Palestinians were marching towards the Old City to denounce increased Israeli security measures in the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, which Israeli authorities decided to maintain early on Friday, despite recommendations from Israel’s own security agencies.
As of 3 p.m., a Palestinian Red Crescent spokesperson told Ma’an that at least 113 Palestinians had been injured in East Jerusalem and the West Bank, while a 17-year-old Palestinian was reportedly shot and killed by an Israeli settler during clashes in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Ras al-Amoud.
Israel increases restrictions, armed presence in Old City
The Waqf, the Islamic endowment administering Al-Aqsa, called earlier this week on all mosques in Jerusalem to be closed on Friday and for all Muslim worshipers in the city to head towards Al-Aqsa to denounce the installation of metal detectors, turnstiles, and additional security cameras in the compound after a shooting attack on July 14 left the assailants, three Palestinian citizens of Israel, and two Israeli border police officers killed.
According to Israeli news outlet Ynet, Israeli police decided on Friday morning that the metal detectors installed at the entrance of the Al-Aqsa compound would remain in place, following overnight discussions by the Israeli security cabinet, although police said they would be used at the police’s discretion, and not against all people seeking to enter the compound.
Israeli police also decided to prevent Palestinian men below the age of 50 to enter the Old City and Al-Aqsa.
However, Israel’s intelligence service, the Shin Bet, and the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) have expressed reservations to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu about the use of metal detectors, arguing that the anger sparked by the measures might outweigh the security benefits of keeping them, Israeli media reported on Wednesday.
Palestinians have seen the measures at Al-Aqsa as the latest example of Israeli authorities using Israeli-Palestinian violence and tensions as a means of furthering control over important sites in the occupied Palestinian territory and normalizing heightened measures by Israeli forces targeting Palestinians.
At least 3,000 members of Israeli forces were deployed across Jerusalem’s Old City on Friday morning, especially near the Al-Aqsa compound, as metal barricades were set up at the Lions’ Gate to the compound, where thousands of Palestinians have been gathering for the past week to pray, refusing to go through the security apparatus installed at Al-Aqsa following a deadly shooting a week earlier.
Israeli forces injure demonstrators, block access to Old City
Despite increased police presence, hundreds of Palestinians Muslims performed the fajr prayers at dawn in front of Lions’ Gate. However, clashes reportedly erupted at Lions’ Gate around noon.
Meanwhile, at least two Israeli and foreign journalists were reporting that Israeli police had forcibly removed them from Lions’ Gate and were refusing to let them enter the area. Israeli police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld did not respond to a request for comment from Ma’an on whether journalists were forbidden from accessing certain areas of the Old City.
The Palestinian Red Crescent told Ma’an that both ambulances and paramedics — even on foot — were also prevented from accessing Lions’ Gate.
Thousands of Palestinians who could not enter the Old City performed noon prayers in surrounding areas — on Salah al-Din Street, near the Gethsemane Church, in Wadi Joz, and at the Jaffa Gate to the Old City.
The Palestinian Red Crescent told Ma’an that Israeli forces injured at least six worshipers on Salah al-Din Street with rubber-coated steel bullets, while scores of others suffered from tear gas inhalation. Israeli police spokeswoman Luba al-Samri said that Israeli forces “dispersed” demonstrators after they allegedly threw rocks.
Video footage showed hundreds of demonstrators fleeing as scores of Israeli officers heavily fired tear gas, and sound bombs towards the crowd.
The health organization later said that a Palestinian was in critical condition after being shot in the eye, while another had been hit in the face with a tear gas canister, adding that both had been transferred to a hospital for treatment. The Red Crescent did not specify where in Jerusalem the two men had been injured.
Israeli forces also set up a checkpoint at the entrance to the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Jabal al-Mukabbir village, where border police equipped with dogs and skunk water vehicles were deployed in order to prevent residents from heading towards the Old City.
Meanwhile, Ynet reported that Israeli forces prevented a bus carrying Palestinians with Israeli citizenship from the area of Latrun from entering Jerusalem.
At least 79 demonstrators were injured by Israeli forces in the Old City on Thursday night, as Israeli police also detained a number of Palestinian political figures and activists.