Israeli forces clash with Palestinians around al-Aqsa, as Gazans rally in solidarity

Israeli forces clashed with Palestinians around the al-Aqsa mosque compound in the occupied East Jerusalem Friday, witnesses said, while hundreds of Gazans staged rallies in solidarity.

Israeli Occupation Forces deployed heavily around the al-Aqsa mosque compound, as it reopened Friday for Muslim prayers after Thursday’s closure.

According to witnesses, Israeli forces fired stun grenades and teargas to disperse stone-throwing Palestinian protestors near al-Aqsa.

Similar clashes were reported in the Shuafat refugee camp in the city.

Israel continues to restrict the entry of Palestinian worshipers into al-Aqsa for the fifth week in a row, banning Palestinian men under 50 from entering the holy site.

Meanwhile in Gaza, protesters shouted pro-al-Aqsa slogans during the rallies, organized by resistance factions Hamas and Islamic Jihad in northern.

“This is not just a protest; Qassam Brigades [Hamas’ armed wing] are working tirelessly to increase its rocket arsenal and improve its range,” Hamas leader Fathi Hammad told reporters during the protest.

He called on the Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority to halt security coordination with Israel “in solidarity with Jerusalemites and the al-Aqsa Mosque”.

Israeli authorities on Thursday closed the al-Aqsa mosque compound, Islam’s third holiest site, to all visitors after an overnight shooting incident in which a man on a motorbike tried to gun down an Israeli hardliner.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas described the closure of al-Aqsa as “tantamount to a declaration of war” by Israel.

On Wednesday, a gunman on a motorcycle opened fire at right-wing Zionist Rabbi Yehuda Glick after a conference focused on the reconstruction of a Jewish temple on top of the al-Aqsa mosque was concluded in Jerusalem.

Glick is the chairman of the Temple Mount Heritage Fund, a Zionist organization that critics say leads Jewish tours to the site with the intention of leading Jewish prayer there – currently banned under Israeli agreements – and encouraging Jews to destroy the al-Aqsa mosque and build a Jewish temple there.

The shooting prompted clashes across occupied East Jerusalem and an Israeli military raid on a Silwan home that left Palestinian Mutaz Hijazi, 32, dead. Police claimed to have identified him as the perpetrator of the shooting.

The incident comes amid increasing tension in Jerusalem over an expected Knesset vote to potentially divide the al-Aqsa mosque compound – the third-holiest site in Islam – between Muslims and Jews, or else restrict Muslim worship at the site.

Since Israel occupied East Jerusalem in 1967, an agreement with Jordan has maintained that Jewish prayer be allowed at the Western Wall plaza – built on the site of a Palestinian neighborhood of 800 that was destroyed immediately following the conquest – but not inside the al-Aqsa mosque compound itself.

Killing Hijazi “act of terrorism”

Hamas on Thursday hailed the shooting of the far-right rabbi, who is notorious for leading groups of Zionists to force their way into the al-Aqsa compound on multiple occasions.

“The assassination attempt of Yehuda Glick…is a heroic and courageous act,” Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said in a press release.

Similarly, Lebanon’s Hezbollah resistance movement hailed the operation, asserting that it represents the Palestinian steadfastness, bravery and willing in defending the mosque of al-Aqsa. Hezbollah also condemned the al-Aqsa closure and denounced the murder of Hijazi.

Fatah and Hamas movements called for a day of rage against Israeli authorities on Friday following the killing of Hijazi, in what many have compared to an extrajudicial assassination by Israeli Occupation Forces.

Hiajzi’s initial autopsy report shows that he was shot all over the body at least 20 times and that his death was caused by severe bleeding from his chest, neck, hands, legs, lungs, and heart, Ma’an news agency reported.

The report is expected to add fuel to allegations by Palestinians that Israeli officers charged with arresting Hijazi instead executed him.

A lawyer for the Addameer Palestinian prisoners’ rights group Mohammed Mahmoud said on Friday that he had received the autopsy reports from Sabi al-Alul, the director of the Abu Kabir Forensic Institute, where the autopsy was held.

Mahmoud said that four of the bullets had struck Hijazi in the chest area, including heart and lungs, six hit his neck area, one hit his shoulder, one hit the right thigh, two hit his right arm, one hit his pelvis, three hit his right leg and four hit his left leg.

Mahmoud said that the bullets in his arm had “deformed and crushed” his bones, and that the autopsy showed that different types of bullets had been used, presumably from a number of different weapons.

Earlier reports said that Hijazi was shot and immobilized by Israeli police officers while on the rooftop of his home. Eyewitnesses say that instead of arresting him, the soldiers dropped a water tank on his injured body, killing him.

The autopsy suggests he subsequently bled to death while on the roof, while Israeli soldiers reportedly prevented locals from reaching his body.

Israeli police officers then allowed an ambulance to come but subsequently forced the driver to stop and stole Hijazi’s body from the back.

The secretary-general of the Fatah movement in Jerusalem, Adnan Ghaith, told Ma’an news agency that the killing of Hijazi without giving him a chance to defend himself and without definitive proof that he was responsible for the shooting, was an “act of terrorism” by Israel.

“Israeli crimes are systematically increasing to target Jerusalem through killing, detentions, assaults, demolishing houses, and preventing worshipers from praying inside the compounds of the al-Aqsa mosque,” he said.

Ghaith added that this discrimination and targeting of Palestinians in the city had led directly to the shooting of Glick.

Fatah condemned the killing of Hijazi, and all Israeli violations against Jerusalem and its holy sites, especially the al-Aqsa mosque.

Although Palestinians in East Jerusalem live within territory Israel has unilaterally annexed, they lack citizenship rights and are instead classified only as “residents” whose permits can be revoked if they move away from the city for more than a few years.

They face discrimination in all aspects of life including housing, employment, and services, and are unable to access services in the West Bank due to the construction of Israel’s separation wall.

Anger has also been fueled by widespread discontent at the Israeli offensive on Gaza that killed nearly 2,200 Palestinians dead, mostly civilians, and injured more than 11,000.

East Jerusalem is internationally recognized as Palestinian territory, but Israel occupied it in 1967 and later annexed it in a move never recognized by the international community.

Jerusalem Palestinian youths ready for new intifada

Israel continues to restrict the entry of Palestinian worshipers into al-Aqsa for the fifth week in a row.

In an urgent message to the US administration on Sunday, Abbas warned that Israel’s continued provocations at the mosque complex would lead to a “wide-reaching explosion.”

In recent months, hundreds of extremist Zionist settlers – often accompanied by Israeli security forces – have repeatedly forced their way into East Jerusalem’s flashpoint al-Aqsa complex.

On Thursday, an Israeli court also banned three women from entering al-Aqsa for more than a month and ordered them to pay fines of 500 shekels each. The individuals were identified as Nujoud Mteir and Zeinat Dweik, banned for 45 days, and Khadija Abu Ghaliya banned for 60 days, lawyer Ramzi Kteilat told Ma’an.

The frequent violations anger Palestinians who fear Zionist presence on the al-Aqsa is aimed at usurping the site.

Fourteen-year-old Hisham, who was born around the start of the second Palestinian intifada, dreams of a new uprising so he can play his part in “defending” al-Aqsa.

For Hisham, who peers with hazel eyes from beneath his grey hooded sweatshirt, the increasing number of Jewish visits to the site is the same thing as the more and more frequent arrest raids by Israeli security forces around his home in Shueifat refugee camp of annexed east Jerusalem.

“At 3:00 am, the soldiers come into the camp, impose a curfew, search the area, and then break and enter” into the houses of their targets.

“We’re used to it. All the young people go in and out of prison on a regular basis.”

Hisham recently spent his first stint in prison – a week for taking part in clashes with security forces – and will be tried within a month.

Twenty-year-old Mohammed, who has just spent four months in prison, said his incarceration would not deter him.

“There’s no peace in Jerusalem. It’s an intifada,” he said.

“I’m ready to go back and confront the Israeli soldiers. I can’t bear seeing (Zionist) settlers on the (al-Aqsa) mosque compound, when Muslims aren’t allowed in.”

Israeli authorities have imposed restrictions on Palestinians seeking to enter the al-Aqsa mosque compound, denying Muslim men under 50 access to the holy site while facilitating the entry of Zionist settlers of all ages.

A Palestinian official last week called for holding an emergency Arab and Islamic summit to discuss Israeli plans to divide the al-Aqsa compound between Palestinians and Israelis.

“Israel is racing against time to legitimize storming of the al-Aqsa Mosque compound by herds of extremist settlers,” Ahmed Qurei, a member of the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), said in a statement.

Earlier this month, UN chief Ban Ki-moon said he was “deeply concerned by repeated provocations at the holy sites in Jerusalem,” saying that such actions “only inflame tensions and must stop.”

Moreover, the daily humiliation of passing through Israeli checkpoints, being searched and sometimes abused, quickly begins to take its toll on Palestinian youths.

Abu Moussa, a scout, was recently roughed up at a checkpoint.

“You have to be totally submissive, like a sheep, not to have problems with them (Israeli soldiers),” he said.

No one stands up for the Palestinians, said Abu Moussa – “neither the Israeli courts, nor any Palestinian institutions. We only have God on our side.”

The latest violence in east Jerusalem has been building up for months.

Early in the summer, Jewish extremists burned alive Palestinian teenager Mohammed Abu Khudeir, and then a 50-day Israeli aggression on Gaza killed nearly 2,200 Palestinians, almost a quarter of them children.

“Children grow up scared of being the next Abu Khudeir,” Social worker Wael Mahmoud said.

Israel occupied East Jerusalem during the 1967 Middle East War. It later annexed the holy city in 1980, claiming it as the capital of the self-proclaimed “Jewish state” – a move never recognized by the international community.

In September 2000, a visit to the site by controversial Israeli leader Ariel Sharon sparked what later became known as the “Second Intifada” – a popular uprising against the Israeli occupation in which thousands of Palestinians were killed.

Source: Al-Akhbar English

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