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In Photos: Palestinians face daily humiliation at Damascus Gate

Feb. 24, 2016 1:27 P.M. (Updated: Feb. 25, 2016 10:25 P.M.)
JERUSALEM (Ma'an) -- Palestinians have described undergoing daily humiliation during Israeli police searches at Damascus Gate in Jerusalem's Old City, following a spate of deadly encounters at the landmark site.

"Israeli forces force me to take off my shoes and almost take off my pants and t-shirt as a daily procedure," 17-year-old Muhannad told Ma'an. "They threaten to detain and beat us if we do not obey them."

Another young Palestinian, 22-year-old Ahmad Rajab, said: "I pass through the area of Damascus Gate sometimes three times a day, and every time they inspect me and ask me to take off some of my clothes and force me to stand against the wall to check my identity."

He said the searches demonstrated that Israel was "delusional."

Jerusalem's Old City has been one of the major focal points of violence since a wave of unrest swept the occupied Palestinian territory in October last year, with Damascus Gate in particular the site of a number of deadly encounters.

On Friday last week, a Palestinian was shot dead outside the gate after he stabbed and wounded two Israeli border police officers.

The preceding Sunday, two Palestinians armed with guns were shot dead there when they attempted to launch an attack on border police.

Israeli forces have enforced tight security measures at the gate, which is a major thoroughfare for Palestinians entering the Old City from the rest of Jerusalem's occupied east.

Saja Kalouti, 22, said she was passing through the gate recently when Israeli forces detained a girl they alleged was carrying a knife.

"At the same time, three Israeli soldiers attacked me and forced me to throw my bag and cell phone to the ground. They asked me many questions: who were you talking to on the phone? Where are you going? Where is your job, and what do you have in your bag?"

Another group of five Palestinians, aged 18 to 25, said that while they were sitting near Damascus Gate waiting for friends, Israeli soldiers ordered them to leave the area.

Israeli actions at the site attracted international attention last week when Israeli police briefly detained the Washington Post's Jerusalem bureau chief and West Bank correspondent while they were conducting interviews nearby.

Israeli borer police said they were told the journalists were "inciting" Palestinians to acts of violence.

The Foreign Press Association afterward decried Israel's "heavy-handed tactics," and the association's Jerusalem head, Luke Baker, later said in an interview that Israeli border police were "aggressive, harassing, and they're very quick to resort to brutal tactics."

Following the surge in violence in October last year, Israeli rights group B'Tselem condemned Israel's response as "the very inverse of what ought to be done," suggesting it would perpetuate rather than end the violence.

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