Al-Quds/Jerusalem, 23 Dzulhijjah 1435/18 October 2014 (MINA) –Thousands of Palestinians performed prayers in the streets and alleyways of the Old City of Jerusalem on Friday after men under the age of 50 were prevented by Israeli authorities from entering the al-Aqsa mosque compound.
Hundreds of Israeli border guards, police, and special forces were deployed throughout Jerusalem streets, in addition to at least one drone and a surveillance balloon in the sky as authorities sought to prevent Muslim worshipers from reaching the holy site.
Crowds performed prayers in the streets of the many Palestinian neighborhoods that lead out from the Old City including Ras al-Amud, Wadi al-Jouz, Salah al-Din, and al-Musrara, Middle East Monitor (MEMO) reported as quoted by Mi’raj Islamic News Agency (MINA), Firday.
Israeli forces detained two Palestinians in the Damascus Gate area after assaulting them, a member of the Arab Palestinian Front office, Said Shweiki, told Ma’an.
He identified the detainees as Marwan Majed Shweiki, 22, and Muhammad Nasser Shweiki, 22.
In Ras al-Amud neighborhood, meanwhile, Israeli forces fired stun grenades at worshipers as they finished prayers in order to disperse them, while Palestinians responded by throwing rocks at soldiers.
Tensions also soared in the Wadi al-Jouz area as Israeli forces deployed heavily in the alleyways of the neighborhood and Palestinian youths threw rocks and fireworks at soldiers.
Clashes erupted in the al-Issawiya neighborhood near the Hebrew University in East Jerusalem as well.
Around 3,000 worshipers were able to perform Friday prayers inside the Al-Aqsa mosque as a result of the Israeli restrictions, but a majority of them were elderly men and women.
Witnesses said that Israeli forces assaulted young worshipers as they attempted to enter the Old City through Damascus Gate to pray morning prayers earlier on Friday, and as a result dozens of Palestinians performed morning prayers at the gates surrounding the compound.
‘First line of defense’ for Aqsa
The clashes on Friday follow days of tensions between Israeli forces and Muslim worshipers as authorities have repeatedly limited access to the holy site amid the Jewish holiday of Sukkot.
Clashes have broken out and dozens have been detained as Israeli police escorted Israeli Jewish groups to the site while preventing Muslims from entering. The groups include a number of Israeli leaders who have expressed their desire to tear down the Al-Aqsa Mosque and build a temple in its place.
On Wednesday alone, 17 Palestinians were detained in clashes with Israeli police forces around the compound.
Palestinian security guards at the Al-Aqsa mosque organized a sit-in in the mosque courtyard on Friday in solidarity with a guard who was among those detained by Israeli police.
Muhannad Idris, 30, was detained on Tuesday after being assaulted while on duty, and Israeli authorities said he would be released at 6:00 p.m. after being forced to pay 1,000 shekel bail and a third-party bail of 5,000 shekels.
As part of his release he was also banned from entering Al-Aqsa and sentenced to 10 days of house arrest.
The arrest provoked outrage among guards and officials at the compound.
Director of the Al-Aqsa compound Sheikh Omar al-Kiswani told Ma’an condemned the continuous attacks on guards of the mosque, adding: “Israel is systematically attacking the guards of Al-Aqsa as an attempt to scare them from doing their job inside the courtyard.”
Al-Kiswani said that the guards are the first line of defense for Al-Aqsa.
Because of the sensitive nature of the Al-Aqsa compound, Israel maintains a compromise with the Islamic trust that controls it to not allow non-Muslim prayers in the area.
Israeli forces regularly escort Jewish visitors to the site, leading to tension with Palestinian worshipers.
The compound, which sits just above the Western Wall plaza, houses both the Dome of the Rock and Al-Aqsa mosque and is the third holiest site in Islam.
It is also venerated as Judaism’s most holy place as it sits where Jews believe the First and Second Temples once stood. The Second Temple was destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD.
Al-Aqsa is located in East Jerusalem, a part of the internationally recognized Palestinian territories that have been occupied by the Israeli military since 1967. (T/P002/P3)
Mi’raj Islamic News Agency (MINA)