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Palestinians in West Bank, Gaza demonstrate in support of Al-Aqsa

July 19, 2017 8:31 P.M. (Updated: July 20, 2017 2:47 P.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- As tensions have continued to rise in occupied East Jerusalem after Israeli authorities implemented security measures at gates of Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, Palestinians across the occupied West Bank and besieged Gaza Strip participated in a “Day of Rage” on Wednesday to express their rejection to Israeli policies at the holy site, while clashes broke out during several marches after Israeli forces attempted to suppress the actions.

Clashes between Palestinians and Israeli forces broke out in Ramallah, where three Palestinians were injured with live ammunition, and Bethlehem, where a Palestinian and international activist were detained by Israeli soldiers.

Meanwhile, clashes and civil disobedience campaigns have been ongoing in and around the Old City of Jerusalem, with Palestinians continuing to protest since Israeli authorities installed metal detectors at the gates of Al-Aqsa on Sunday in response to a deadly shoot-out at the compound two days prior.

Following Israel’s occupation of East Jerusalem in 1967, Israel has maintained a compromise with the Islamic trust that controls the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound to not allow non-Muslim prayers in the area. However, non-Muslims are permitted to visit the site during designated times.

Palestinians have long feared that Israel has been attempting to shake up the status quo at the holy site, in the shape of routine Jewish incursions on the site and right-wing Israeli calls to demolish the mosque and replace it with a third Jewish temple.

Nablus

In Nablus city in the northern occupied West Bank, the Fatah movement organized a sit-in at al-Shuhada square in support of Al-Aqsa, as a crowd of Palestinians, representatives of PA security authorities, and civil and local societies congregated to express their rejection of Israel’s new security measures.

Tubas

In Tubas, in the northern West Bank, a sit-in was also held, as Palestinians expressed their support for Al-Aqsa and Palestinian resistance to the Israel's security measures.

Ahmad al-Assad, in charge of Tubas and the northern Jordan Valley municipality works, condemned Israeli procedures at Al-Aqsa during the sit-in, saying that the escalation was the latest Israeli attempt to “Judaize” Al-Aqsa Mosque.

“All Israeli governments have sought to control Al-Aqsa,” he said, adding that Israel’s temporary closure of Al-Aqsa Mosque compound and subsequent security measures were “an attempt to impose Israeli sovereignty over Al-Aqsa Mosque.”

Al-Assad added that the Israeli policies at Al-Aqsa were “very dangerous,” but expressed his appreciation for the “determinations” of Palestinians in occupied East Jerusalem “in the face of Israeli racist policies that will only increase the determination of the Palestinian people.”

Meanwhile, Fatah secretary in Tubas, Mahmoud Sawafta said that Israeli policies would “fail in front of the rejection of the Palestinian people,” and confirmed the right of Palestinians to enter Al-Aqsa freely and without security measures.

The unprecedented policies, he added, were an attempt to obstruct Palestinians from accessing the mosque.

Ramallah

Dozens of Palestinians in Ramallah city also took part in a march, which erupted into clashes with Israeli forces after arriving at Israel’s infamous Qalandiya checkpoint between Ramallah and Jerusalem, where three Palestinians were injured with live ammunition shot by Israeli forces.

Witnesses told Ma’an that the march set off from Yasser Arafat circle, and several officials, Palestinian committees and institutions in Ramallah took part in the action.

Protesters waved Palestinian flags and signs condemning Israel’s policies at Al-Aqsa, and stressed that Jerusalem is the “eternal capital” of Palestine, a play on a common Israeli right-wing slogan against occupied East Jerusalem's incorporation into a Palestinian state.

When the march approached the Qalandiya checkpoint, clashes erupted between Palestinians youths and Israeli forces.

The Palestinian Ministry of Health said that three Palestinians were injured with live bullets during the clashes, all of whom were hit in their lower extremities. The ministry added that the "youths" were transferred to the Palestine Medical Center to receive treatment.

Israeli police spokesperson Luba al-Samri said in a statement that dozens of Palestinians who had "gathered" near the checkpoint began "throwing rocks" at Israeli forces, who then used crowd dispersal means to suppress the protest.

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Bethlehem

In Bethlehem city in the southern West Bank a march was called by various political factions, and was launched from Bab Zqaq and moved forward to the northern entrance of Bethlehem.

Clashes erupted at the northern entrance following the march where Israeli forces fired tear gas and rubber-coated steel bullets at protesters.

Al-Samri confirmed the clashes in a statement, saying that dozens of Palestinians in Bethlehem near Rachel's Tomb, a holy site for Muslims, Christians, and Jews which is cut off from the Palestinian city by the Israeli separation wall, and that Israeli forces had used riot dispersal means to suppress the demonstration.

Al-Samri added that two Palestinians were detained during the demonstration. Palestinian news agency Wafa identified one of those detained as Yousif al-Sharqawi. The other detainee was an international support who had not yet been identified, Wafa said.

Gaza

Meanwhile, hundreds of Palestinians also took part in a march in Gaza city, which was launched from the headquarters of the International Committee of the Red Cross and headed to the United Nations office in the city.

Palestinians shouted slogans, expressing their willingness to “sacrifice their souls” for Jerusalem.

Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) leader Talal Abu Tharifa told Ma’an that Israel is committing a “violation of international law” by implementing restrictive security measures at Al-Aqsa.

He went on to condemn the “silence” of the international community and the UN concerning Israel’s security measures.

Abu Tharifa called upon the UN Security Council to take “serious steps” to hold an “immediate and urgent meeting” that could prevent Israel from violating international laws.
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