For the eighth consecutive day since Israeli authorities installed increased security measures at the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in occupied East Jerusalem, hundreds of Muslim worshipers on performed prayers outside of the compound gates in protest on Sunday, as Palestinian political and religious officials expressed their strong opposition to the new Israeli restrictions.
In the wake of a deadly shoot-out 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 territory 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.
Witnesses told Ma’an that hundreds of worshipers prayed outside of the Lions’ Gate and the Council Gate 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 Jerusalemite 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 reported 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 isha night-time 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 to Ma’an 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.”
“Targeting Al-Aqsa and plundering our Christian endowment properties are two faces of one policy targeting us all as Palestinians in this holy land,” Hanna stated, adding that Israeli policies in the city sent a message that “you Palestinians are unwelcome in Jerusalem.”
“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 Jerusalemites 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.”
Abbas said on Friday that he had decided to suspend all contacts with Israel until the latter lifted recent security measures in occupied East Jerusalem — including, allegedly, ceasing security coordination with Israel, through which the PA has been accused of carrying out a “revolving door” policy funneling Palestinians from PA jails to Israeli prisons.
The move, Abbas said, was “not an easy decision at all, but they (Israeli authorities) have to do something about it.”
While Abbas said that the PA opposed terrorism, he countered that Israel had long depended on Palestinian security forces to carry out the bulk of efforts to quash possible attacks against Israeli targets.
Both the PA and the Hamas movement, the de facto ruling party in the besieged Gaza Strip, called for Palestinian national unity on Sunday to face Israeli aggression in Jerusalem — albeit on starkly different terms.
In a statement released on Saturday, the Middle East Quartet — consisting of the United Nations, the European Union, Russia, and the United States — said that it was “deeply concerned” by the developments in Jerusalem.
The Quartet said it “strongly condemn(ed) acts of terror, express their regret for all loss of innocent life caused by the violence,” while calling on all parties to work to de-escalate tensions.
“The Quartet envoys reiterate that violence deepens mistrust and is fundamentally incompatible with achieving a peaceful resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” the statement added.