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Israeli forces restrict Aqsa entrance for Palestinian women

Nov. 16, 2014 4:34 P.M. (Updated: Nov. 16, 2014 11:53 P.M.)
JERUSALEM (Ma'an) -- Dozens of Palestinian women were forced to perform midday prayers in the alleyways outside of the Al-Aqsa mosque after Israeli forces allow only conditional entry to female worshipers to the holy site, witnesses told Ma'an.

The renewed restrictions on female worshipers entailed that women leave their identity cards at the Israeli checkpoints that surround the mosque.

Witnesses said that many Palestinian women refused to leave their ID cards at the checkpoints as Israeli authorities frequently confiscate the ID cards, and the women knew that it could take them hours to retrieve them.

In some cases, women said that ID cards have been sent to police stations in Jerusalem and women would have had to wait several hours, or could be forced to undergo interrogations in order to get their ID cards back.

Several women were assaulted with rifle butts as they crowded near the gates of Al-Aqsa Sunday, witnesses said.

Meanwhile, more than 30 right-wing Jews were allowed into the Al-Aqsa compound Sunday morning heavily escorted by Israeli police officers.

The limits on female worshipers are only the latest in increasingly severe restrictions on Palestinian entry to the mosque that have intensified in recent months, sparking daily clashes in the area with authorities and raising tensions across Jerusalem.

Over the past few months, Israeli authorities have regularly denied Muslim women access to the mosque in the morning hours (7-10 a.m.) in order to facilitate the entry of right-wing Jewish groups, raising the ire of Palestinians.

After being denied entry on Sunday, Palestinian women prayed outside the mosque's Council Gate and chanted slogans expressing support for the Al-Aqsa Mosque and opposition to Jewish prayer at the site.

According to a 1967 agreement by Israeli authorities made after occupying Jerusalem, only Muslim prayer in the Al-Aqsa mosque compound while Jewish prayer is allowed at the Western Wall next door.

However, in recent months right-wing groups who have previously called for the destruction of the mosque and the construction of a Jewish temple on the site have repeatedly entered the area under heavy police escort.

The visits, combined with proposals for a Knesset vote to divide the site between Jews and Muslims, have outraged the Palestinian public, which sees the encroachment on Al-Aqsa as symptomatic of the wider denial of their rights in historic Palestine as well as intense discrimination in housing, employment, and social services by Israeli authorities.

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