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21 Jul, 2017

Thousands of Palestinians march towards Al-Aqsa to protest Israeli mosque restrictions

JERUSALEM, July 21, 2017 (WAFA) – Thousands of Palestinians Friday afternoon marched towards Jerusalem’s Old City to express their rejection of the metal detectors, which the Israeli cabinet has decided to leave in place despite Palestinian protests.

Islamic Waqf in charge of running the mosque compound called earlier this week on Palestinians in East Jerusalem to close all mosques and head towards Al-Aqsa for Friday prayers to express their rejection of the installation of metal detectors.

Israel has set up the metal detectors and cameras at the entrances to the site and took other tightened measures following a fatal attack that left the assailants, three Palestinian citizens of Israel, and two Israeli police officers killed on July 14.

Over 3,000 Israeli police officers and troops were deployed across Jerusalem’s Old City Friday morning in anticipation of the Palestinian calls for “Friday of Rage” mass non-violent protests against the Israeli measures at the esplanade.

Troops set up checkpoints on the highways leading to Jerusalem and closed other roads to vehicles and set up roadblocks in the Old City’s alleyways and roads leading to the Lion’s Gate (Bab al-Asbat), only allowing those over 50 or women any age to enter the Old City.

Stationed at checkpoints on the Abu Ghosh Road, troops stopped 30 buses transporting Palestinian Muslim worshippers from Israel to the holy esplanade.

Despite the beefed-up police presence, hundreds of Palestinians spent the whole night in the roads leading to the Lion’s Gate and performed the fajr prayer at the gate.

Palestinians have widely perceived the installation of metal detectors as an Israeli attempt to use Israeli-Palestinian violence to extend its control over East Jerusalem and the holy site, further restricting Palestinian and Muslim access.

Thousands of Palestinians who could not make it to the Old City performed the noon prayer on Salah al-Din Street, located near the Gethsemane Church, and at the Jaffa Gate, where clashes also erupted.

At least six worshippers on Salah al-Din Street were shot and injured with rubber-coated steel bullets, and a photojournalist who works with the Palestinian Authority’s news agency (WAFA was shot with a live round in the chest.

Following an agreement with between Israel and the Muslim Waqf after occupying Jerusalem in 1967, only Muslims are allowed to pray in the mosque compound while Jewish prayer is allowed at the Western Wall next door.

However, Jewish fanatic extremist groups who have previously called for the destruction of the mosque and the construction of a Jewish temple on the spot are allowed to freely roam the site under heavy police escort.

Combined with proposal for a Knesset vote to divide the site between Muslims and Jews, the visits have outraged the Palestinian public, which views encroachments on the holy site as symptomatic of the wider denial of their rights to historic Palestine as well as discrimination in housing, employment and social services by Israeli authorities.

The compound, which houses both the Dome of the Rock and Al-Aqsa mosque, is the third holiest site in Islam. It is also venerated as Judaism’s most holy place as it sits where Jews claim the First and Second Temples once stood.

Al-Aqsa is located in East Jerusalem, a part of the Palestinian territories that have been under Israeli military occupation since 1967.