For the eighth consecutive day since Israel installed increased security measures at the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in occupied Old City of Jerusalem (al-Quds), hundreds of Muslim worshipers on Sunday performed prayers outside of the compound gates in protest to the regime’s measures.
In the wake of a deadly shootout between Palestinian assailants and Israeli police officers on July 14, Israeli forces shut down the Al-Aqsa compound for two days, only to reopen it after having installed security cameras, metal detectors, and turnstiles at the entrances of the compound.
Palestinians have said the move is the latest instance of Israeli authorities using Israeli-Palestinian violence as a means of furthering control over important sites in the occupied Palestinian territories and normalizing repressive measures against Palestinians.
Palestinians have protested the measures by praying outside of Al-Aqsa’s gates, with mass demonstrations across the occupied territory on Friday erupting into violent clashes that left three protesters killed, Maan news agency reported.
Witnesses said that hundreds of worshipers prayed outside of the Lions’ Gate (known as Bab al-Asbat in Arabic) and the Council Gate (Bab al-Majlis) to the compound during midday prayers on Sunday, in the presence of dozens of Israeli police officers who prevented the call to prayer and forced journalists to leave the area.
A funeral prayer was also performed outside of the compound for a deceased Palestinian man, after his family refused to go the metal detectors to enter Al-Aqsa, which is the third holiest site in Islam after Mecca and Medina.
Following midday prayers, Israeli forces detained a young Palestinian man, identified as Ahmad al-Shawish, and questioned several others.
Israeli police spokeswoman Luba al-Samri said that two Palestinian residents of the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Shuafat were detained on Sunday morning near the illegal Israeli separation wall for being in possession of fireworks, which police officers suspected they were planning on using against Israeli forces during demonstrations.
Meanwhile, the Palestinian Red Crescent reported that Israeli forces injured at least 21 Palestinians on Sunday evening following the nighttime prayer, 15 of whom were hit by rubber-coated bullets, while at least six were injured after being hit with batons.
Al-Aqsa Mosque compound director Sheikh Omar al-Kiswani confirmed that he would continue to oppose all procedures that could eventually result in “changing the historic and religious status quo in Jerusalem and its holy sites, including the Al-Aqsa Mosque.”
Meanwhile, Greek Orthodox Archbishop of Sabastiya Atallah Hanna stood in solidarity with Al-Aqsa during a speech outside of the compound on Sunday.
“As Jerusalemites, in spite of all the pain, grief, suffering, and injustice, we will continue to hold on to our city and defend our holy sites,” he said. “Jerusalem is the city of national unity between Muslims and Christians. It is a city that unites us as children of one Palestinian people.”
“Our response to that racist policy is that the occupation is unwelcome in Jerusalem and must disappear from our city and our holy sites.”
In the besieged Gaza Strip city of Rafah, demonstrators marched in solidarity with Palestinian people in al-Quds on Saturday evening, as Haidar al-Hout, a leader of resistance committees in Gaza, hailed Palestinians’ “determination and toughness” in standing up to Israeli measures in East Jerusalem.
Meanwhile, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas reiterated the Palestinian Authority’s (PA) opposition to the security measures at Al-Aqsa, stating that “sovereignty of the mosque is our right, and it is us who should be standing at its gates.”
More than 300 Palestinians have lost their lives at the hands of Israeli forces in the ongoing tensions since the beginning of October 2015.
The Tel Aviv regime has tried to change the demographic makeup of Jerusalem al-Quds over the past decades by constructing settlements, destroying historical sites and expelling the local Palestinian population.
Palestinians say the Israeli measures are aimed at paving the way for the Judaization of the city.
The al-Aqsa Mosque compound is a flashpoint Islamic site, which is also holy to Jews. The mosque is Islam’s third holiest site after Mecca and Medina in Saudi Arabia.