Palestinians barred from Old Jerusalem

Israel has deployed extra troops around
the al-Aqsa compound [AFP]

Israeli
police have barred Palestinians protesting in defence of the al-Aqsa
mosque compound from gaining access to Jerusalem’s Old City.

Friday’s
increased restrictions on the mosque compound in occupied East
Jerusalem followed a series of clashes that started late last month.  

Men under the age of 50 were prevented from accessing the mosque for the past six days.



Towards
the end of Friday, Israel lifted its curfew, but for most of the day
several hundred Palestinians were denied entry to the mosque.

Many performed Friday prayers just outside the gates of the Old
City, while the heavily armed Israeli police deployed extra troops.

Palestinian
leaders called for a one-day strike, as some suggested that the Israeli
actions could spark a third uprising, or intifada, against the
occupation.

Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president who heads the Fatah movement, called the strike “to peacefully protest”.

‘Holy places’

The protest also
sought to “proclaim the attachment of the Palestinian people to their
holy places and to Jerusalem as the eternal capital of the independent
Palestinian state”.
  

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Fatah accused Israeli forces of allowing rightwing Jewish extremists to
enter the mosque compound while denying access to Muslims.

Security
forces set up checkpoints around and within the Old City and were seen
turning back Palestinians who do not live or work there.

But they were allowing in tourists and Jews wanting to pray at the
Western Wall – also known as the Wailing Wall – just below the mosque
compound.
  
Most shops in the Old City shut down, though some shop-owners complained about the strike.

“We need to strengthen our presence in Jerusalem, not weaken it,”
said Ramdan Abu Sbeeh, 32, a sweets-seller who defied the strike call.
   
A
senior police official told public radio: “We have deployed thousands
of people in Jerusalem and in the north of Israel following incitation
by extremists.”
  
Israeli police have accused the Islamic
Movement of inciting tension and this week briefly detained its leader,
Sheikh Raed Salah, whom they said had made “inflammatory statements”.
  
Salah,
who previously spent two years in Israeli prison, has repeatedly called
in recent days for Muslims to “defend” al-Aqsa against Israel.

Ongoing clashes

Sherine
Tadros, Al Jazeera’s correspondent in East Jerusalem, said: “Despite
the heavy police presence around the Old City we have still been
hearing of skirmishes and clashes taking place around occupied East
Jerusalem.

“We’ve also heard of a brewing situation taking place not far from
the Old City where dozens of Palestinian protesters have been clashing
for more than an hour with Israeli police forces. There are at least
four Palestinians and five Israeli soldiers who  were injured in those
clashes. The protesters were subjected to tear gas by the Israeli
police, that situation we are hearing has calmed down.

“All of these protests and skirmishes have been taking place today,
as they have been throughout last week, because of Israel’s continued
restrictions on the al-Aqsa mosque. This has caused outrage not just in
the territories but across the Muslim world.

“The Palestinians say it is yet another example of Israel asserting
its occupation and presence here in the Old City. The Israelis are
saying this is simply a security measure to keep the area safe,” she
said.

 Source: Al Jazeera and agencies

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