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Israeli forces injure scores of worshipers as clashes continue at Al-Aqsa

July 19, 2017 1:08 P.M. (Updated: July 19, 2017 2:39 P.M.)
JERUSALEM (Ma’an) -- As tensions remained high at occupied East Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, Israeli forces injured some 70 Muslim worshipers -- three of them seriously including one who required surgery -- as well as Palestinian medical crews and journalists during protests coinciding with the night-time Isha prayer overnight Tuesday.

Jerusalemite Palestinians have continued to protest against new metal detectors at the gates of the mosque -- the third holiest site in Islam -- that were installed Sunday after the holy site was placed under rare closure for more than two days, after a shoot-out left three assailants and two police officers -- all Palestinian citizens of Israel -- dead in and around the compound.

Clashes between Israeli forces have been ongoing since the new security measures were imposed, which have been widely denounced by Palestinians as a violation of freedom of worship.

Dozens of Palestinians were injured Monday night during the Isha prayers, and dozens more were injured on Tuesday night after Israeli forces attack thousands of worshipers, including women, elderly, and children in and around the Old City.

The Palestinian Red Crescent said at least 70 people were injured at the Lions Gate entrance to the compound, including at least 14 protesting worshipers who were hospitalized, three of them for serious injuries.

At least 20 more were treated at the scene for minor injuries resulting from severe tear gas inhalation or being beaten and bruised by Israeli police.

The Red Crescent said Israeli forces fired a sound bomb directly at one of its ambulances and physically assaulted on medic who was attempting to provide treatment to protesting worshipers.

A number of reporters and journalists were also assaulted and injured by Israeli police.

One of the wounded was Sheikh Akrama Sabri, head of High Islamic Committee, who sustained severe bruises on his back after being shot by Israeli police with a rubber-coated steel bullet and beaten with batons.

The Red Crescent said later Wednesday morning he was undergoing surgery at Makassed hospital.

“We were standing next to Sheikh Akrama Sabri, and the moment we turned our backs, soldiers fired rubber bullets and sound bombs, causing him to fall on the ground,” Sheikh Raed Danaa, head of the guidance and preaching committee of the Waqf, the Islamic endowment that manages the compound, said.

Danaa deplored Israeli forces for their “savage and spiteful” attack on “the people, stones, and trees” in the Old City. “The behavior of police is guided by the Israeli government. It is clear that these metal detectors will only bring more problems, as Jerusalemites will never be silent towards such procedures. If Israel wanted to achieve calm, it should remove the metal detectors immediately,” he said.

Head of them Hamas movement’s politburo Ismail Haniyeh called Akrama Sabri to check on his condition, a Hamas spokesperson told Ma’an. During the phone call, Haniyeh expressed his pride and appreciation for the role Jerusalemites were playing in confronting the Israeli occupation and its attempts to impose its control over Al-Aqsa Mosque.

Director of Al-Aqsa Mosque Omar al-Kiswani said that Israeli police carried out the attack on worshipers “without any reason.” He affirmed that worshipers will continue to reject the metal detectors and pray outside of the compound until they are removed.

Also present at the protest were Knesset members Ahmad Tibi, Jamal Zahalqa, Jumaa Zabaraka, and Osama Saadi, who represent Palestinian citizens of Israel at the Israeli parliament, expressing their rejection of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s decision to install the metal detectors.

Archbishop Atallah Hanna of the Greek Orthodox Church was also present at the protest, describing the aggression against Al-Aqsa Mosque as “an aggression against all.”

He affirmed the unity of all Christians and Muslims in the holy city and stressed the importance of providing a united front in the face of Israel’s discriminatory policies in Jerusalem, which he affirmed would remain “a symbol of religious unity and brotherhood.”

“This isn’t a governmental institution or a mall, this is a mosque, we are here to pray. We just want to pray without going through these unfair metal detectors,” a Jerusalemite woman participating in the protests told Ma’an with tears in her eyes.

A Palestinian with Israeli citizenship told Ma’an that it was “an honor” to be able to pray outside of the mosque’s gates in defiance of the Israeli measures. “We are protesting here and praying on behalf of the entire Islamic and Arabic nation,” he said.

Israeli police spokeswoman Luba al-Samri wrote in a statement that Israeli forces had dispersed the “disorderly” crowds and detained a number of “suspects” who threw rocks and empty bottles at Israeli police at the gates of the mosque.

“Israeli police used dispersal methods and restored calmness in the area,” she said, adding that two Israeli policemen were lightly injured by rocks thrown at them, and they were treated at the scene.

She said Israeli police were aware of reports that “one person responsible for causing the disorder” was hospitalized for injuries.

According to al-Samri, Palesitnians also threw rocks and Molotov cocktails at Israeli forces in the occupied East Jerusalem neighborhoods of Silwan, Issawiya, and Ras al-Amud and that Israeli border police “used methods in return” against the assailants.
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