Israel continues attacks on Jerusalem worshippers 

27 Jul

Palestinians pray outside the Lions Gate to Jerusalem’s al-Aqsa mosque on 24 July. [Amir Abed Rabbo APA]

Maureen Clare Murphy, Electronic Intifada, 26 July 2017 (abridged).

Israeli occupation forces attacked Palestinian worshippers at the Lions Gate entrance to the al-Aqsa mosque compound in East Jerusalem on Tuesday night.

The Palestinian Quds news outlet reported that Israeli forces fired sound bombs and tear gas canisters, wounding dozens, and prevented ambulances from reaching the area.

Palestinian worshippers had continued to keep vigil outside the mosque compound on Tuesday. The Waqf religious trust that administers the site had called for continuation of a boycott as it evaluated the situation after Israel removed metal detectors the night before.

The metal detectors had been unilaterally installed along with security cameras following a shooting attack that left two Israeli police officers and three suspected Palestinian assailants dead earlier in the month. Israel claims that the alleged assailants ambushed the police officers from the compound.

The new Israeli measures were met with vigorous Palestinian protest and civil disobedience as well as international warnings against any change to the delicate status quo at the highly sensitive holy site.

Four Palestinians were shot dead during protests in the Jerusalem area and hundreds more demonstrators were wounded throughout the occupied West Bank and Gaza over the weekend.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s cabinet decided to remove the metal detectors but not the security cameras late Monday night. Israeli media reported that the cabinet decided to replace the metal detectors with security cameras that have facial recognition capabilities and are connected to a biometric database.

Israeli journalists reported late Tuesday night that Netanyahu had directed Gilad Erdan, Israel’s public security minister, and police to conduct body checks on anyone who enters the mosque compound.

Meanwhile Avi Dichter, a senior Israeli lawmaker from Netanyahu’s Likud party who formerly headed the country’s secret police, told Israeli television that the government had decided “to turn the Temple Mount into a sterile area – with all that this entails,” employing the term Israel uses for the mosque compound.

“The Temple Mount is under Israeli sovereignty, period,” he said.

No country recognizes Israel’s claim to sovereignty over East Jerusalem, which is part of the occupied West Bank.

Dichter is one of many Israeli leaders openly advocating for greater Israeli control if not an outright takeover of the site, one of the holiest shrines for Muslims and a touchstone of Palestinian identity.

Several Israeli lawmakers openly support a government-funded extremist movement which seeks to destroy Islamic holy sites at the al-Aqsa mosque compound and replace them with a Jewish temple.

Palestinians view Israel’s measures at al-Aqsa as part of an effort to erase all Palestinian life in the city, like it has in the area of the historic Ibrahimi mosque in Hebron, where an American Jewish settler massacred Palestinian worshippers in 1994.

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