Israel detains 200 Palestinians in 2 weeks as al-Aqsa protests continue

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Palestinians clean up debris inside the al-Aqsa Mosque, on November 5, 2014 following clashes between Israeli Occupation Forces and Palestinians. AFP / Ahmad Gharabli

Published Friday, November 7, 2014

Updated at 4:00 pm (GMT +2): Israeli forces detained 12 Palestinians in occupied East Jerusalem on Thursday, taking to 200 the total number of Palestinians detained in two weeks.

"Police arrested 12 suspects yesterday evening involved in disturbances," Israeli forces spokesman Micky Rosenfeld wrote on Twitter on Friday. "Over the last 2 weeks, 200 suspects have been arrested," he added.

Meanwhile in the occupied West Bank, at least 15 Palestinians were injured Friday after Israeli forces dispersed rallies in solidarity with the al-Aqsa Mosque.

Israeli forces fired live ammunition, rubber bullets and teargas to disperse protesters at the Qalandia military checkpoint, eyewitnesses said.

Fifteen protesters were injured by rubber bullets, while scores suffered gas inhalation, according to the witnesses. Protesters burnt tyres and hurled rocks and Molotov cocktails at Israeli forces, the witnesses said.

Clashes also erupted between Palestinian protesters and Israeli forces in the West Bank cities of Bethlehem and Hebron.

On Thursday, Hamas and Islamic Jihad issued separate statements calling on Palestinians to take to the streets following Friday prayers “in solidarity with the al-Aqsa Mosque.”

Palestinian resistance movement Hamas called on Palestinians in the occupied West Bank to take to the streets on Friday to "show support to occupied Jerusalem and the al-Aqsa Mosque."

Moreover, a Islamic Jihad leader, Mohammad al-Harrazin, said in a statement that the movement’s agenda focuses on “mobilizing and recruiting” the public in support of Jerusalem.

Al-Harrazin added that a popular revolution is necessary in order to counter the Israeli threats and violations, calling upon Palestinians to organize marches expressing rage and to defend and protect Jerusalem, al-Aqsa and all holy sites.

On Friday, Israeli forces continued to prevent Palestinian men under 35 from entering the al-Aqsa compound for Friday prayers, while allowing Zionist settlers into the holy site undisturbed.

Tensions have been running high in occupied East Jerusalem after months of Israeli pressure on the region, including through a massive arrest campaign and a major military offensive on Gaza that left more than 2,100 dead and provoked outrage across Palestine.

They have also been stoked by Israeli authorities' decision to hold a vote on splitting the al-Aqsa compound despite the existence of a Jewish prayer area at the Western Wall immediately next door.

The unrest mounted further after Israeli authorities sealed access to the al-Aqsa mosque and following the killing of a young Palestinian man suspected of shooting and injuring a far-right Zionist rabbi.

Several far-right Israeli members of the Knesset have also entered the mosque complex in recent days, drawing the ire of Muslim worshippers and official condemnation from Arab and Muslim countries.

Groups of Zionist settlers, too, have forced their way into the site, prompting clashes between Palestinians and Israeli forces.

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.

Israeli forces have long restricted Palestinians’ access to the al-Aqsa compound based on age and gender, but have further prevented Muslim worshipers from entering the mosque for more than a month while facilitating the entrance for Zionist extremists.

On Thursday, witnesses said clashes broke out near an Israeli military checkpoint at the main entrance to Shuafat refugee camp where Israeli Occupation Forces attacked Palestinian protesters with tear gas, grenades and sponge rounds.

Clashes also erupted in the al-Tur neighborhood where Israeli forces and undercover agents detained five young Palestinian men, and on the main roads near Anata and al-Ram as well as Hutta square in the Old city.

Israeli forces also closed with concrete blocks the main entrance to the town of Al-Isawiya. Concrete blocks were placed in front of tram stops in East Jerusalem.

Furthermore, seven Palestinians were injured on Thursday after Israeli forces fired live ammunition and rubber-coated bullets at students from Birzeit University during a rally they organized in solidarity with al-Aqsa.

More than 500,000 Israeli settlers live in settlements across the West Bank and East Jerusalem, in contravention of international law.

The internationally recognized Palestinian territories of which the West Bank and East Jerusalem form a part have been occupied by the Israeli military since 1967.

Reactions to al-Aqsa violations

Israel on Thursday promised Jordan that it would not allow Jews to pray at Jerusalem's al-Aqsa mosque compound as scores of Jewish extremists tried to march to the flashpoint shrine.

With clashes raging in several Palestinian neighborhoods in occupied east Jerusalem, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke by phone with Jordan's King Abdullah II to reassure him there would be no changes to the decades-old status quo.

"I spoke today to King Abdullah of Jordan and we agreed that we will make every effort to calm the situation," Netanyahu said.

"I explained to him that we're keeping the status quo on the Temple Mount and that this includes Jordan's traditional role there," he said, using Israel's name for the compound.

The phone call came 24 hours after fierce clashes between Israeli Occupation Forces and Palestinians protesting the storming of al-Aqsa by Jewish extremists prompted Amman to recall its ambassador to Israel "in protest at Israel's escalation” and move to file a UN complaint.

Under the current status quo, Jews are permitted to visit the esplanade but not to pray there for fear it would cause friction at one of the most sensitive holy sites in the Middle East.

King Abdullah "recalled that Jordan firmly rejected any measure undermining the sanctity of the Al-Aqsa mosque", a palace statement said.

Jordan's status as custodian of the Al-Aqsa mosque compound and other Muslim holy sites in annexed east Jerusalem is enshrined in the 1994 peace treaty between the two countries.

Concerns that Israel was set to legislate changes to the status quo have sparked weeks of unrest at the site.

Meanwhile, Czech Foreign Minister Lubomir Zaoralek denounced recent Israeli aggressions in occupied East Jerusalem, warning they could jeopardize a "two-state solution" to the ongoing Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

Speaking at a news conference in Ramallah with Palestinian counterpart Riyad al-Maliki, Zaoralek said that certain Israeli policies – like closing the al-Aqsa Mosque compound to worshippers and continued settlement building – contravened international law.

He also asserted his country's support for the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians, saying a two-state solution was the only way to end the decades-long conflict.

Al-Maliki, for his part, said that recent Israeli actions in Jerusalem constituted "a declaration of war."

Meanwhile, Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Thursday that Israel's "barbaric and despicable" attack on the al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem is "unforgivable."

"With such continuing actions, Israel is preparing the ground for the failure of inter-religious and inter-ethnic dialogue around the world," he said in a press conference before departing for an official visit to Turkmenistan.

"Israel has already been isolated in the Middle East, but if such actions continue, Israel will also become marginalized at the world level. The occupation of al-Aqsa is not only a concern of Palestinians or Arabs, but of the whole Muslim world."

In Turkey, pro-Palestinian activists chanted slogans and raised flags following Friday prayers in Istanbul as part of nationwide protests over an Israeli aggressions at the al-Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem.

Around 1,000 protesters gathered in the yard of Istanbul's Fatih Mosque, condemning what they called "Zionist aggression on the holy temple."

For Muslims, al-Aqsa represents the world's third holiest site.

In September 2000, a visit to the al-Aqsa Mosque complex by controversial Israeli politician 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.

Israeli settlers storm Joseph's tomb

On Thursday, around 150 Zionists gathered near the Old City for a march "to the gates of the Temple Mount.”

"We are proudly marching with high heads to the direction of the Temple Mount. God willing, we'll get there," Ariel Groner told AFP, a far-right Zionist and hardline campaigner for “Jewish prayer rights” at the compound.

Meanwhile, hundreds of Zionist settlers under heavy military escort visited Joseph's Tomb near Balata refugee camp east of Nablus early Thursday morning.

Palestinian security sources told a Ma'an reporter that more than 30 Israeli military vehicles escorted ten settler buses to the site at dawn.

The settlers performed religious rites throughout the early morning hours.

A group of young Palestinian men gathered in the area hurling stones and empty bottles at the Israeli soldiers, who responded with tear gas canisters and stun grenades.

No casualties were reported.

Israeli settlers frequently visit Joseph's Tomb under the protection of Israeli forces, who regularly raid local Palestinian villages and fire tear gas into the neighboring Balata refugee camp during these visits.

Though the site lies in an area under Palestinian authority deep in the West Bank, it is fully controlled by Israeli forces.

Palestinians believe that Joseph's Tomb is the funerary monument to Sheikh Yusef Dweikat, a local religious figure. Others believe that the tomb belongs to the Biblical patriarch Joseph.

(Al-Akhbar, Ma'an, Anadolu, AFP)

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