Israeli security forces and Palestinians clashed on Friday at the Al-Aqsa mosque compound in Jerusalem, a holy site for Muslims and Jews, after a week of tensions and the first exchange of fire in the Gaza Strip in months.
The violence follows a spate of Palestinian attacks in Israeli cities over the past month, a major Israeli military operation in the occupied West Bank, a political crisis that has called the future of Israel’s ruling coalition into question, and the Muslim holiday of Ramadan and Jewish Passover. Festival.
The unrest now threatens to spread to the Arab Israeli city, with Israeli police putting some of its reserves on alert ahead of planned demonstrations later on Friday. Similar tensions led to 11 days of clashes last year between Israel and the radical Hamas group in Gaza.
Early morning clashes at the compound of the Al-Aqsa Mosque, Islam’s third holiest site, have been frequent over the past week. Earlier on Friday, Israeli riot police deployed stun grenades and rubber bullets at about 200 Palestinian demonstrators waving rocks and fireworks and flying Hamas flags.
“We sacrificed Al-Aqsa for you with our souls and our blood,” some Palestinians chanted.
After three hours of clashes, Israeli police said the compound had been cleared of “thugs”, but unrest erupted again in the afternoon, with Israeli troops using drones to release tear gas to disperse throngs of Palestinians.
Palestinian officials have accused Israel of violating longstanding arrangements around the Holy Land, known in Jewish tradition as the Temple Mount, the site of the biblical Jewish temple.
Some analysts say Jewish worshippers are allowed to visit the building, despite ultranationalist groups pushing the meaning of “visit” to its limits in recent years — including during Passover this past week, when more than 2,000 Israelis visited the building. Court, but not pray. Flashpoint site, walk by with a police escort while chanting a spell.
Palestinian Authority Senior Minister Hussein Sheikh said Tuesday that the Israeli government “allows Jewish extremists to attack Al-Aqsa on a daily basis under its protection”. . . the so-called ‘status quo’ is being undermined”. Israeli officials deny the allegations and say the escalation of tensions is the result of concerted action by Islamist militant groups, including Hamas.
Israeli police blocked an ultranationalist march into Jerusalem’s predominantly Muslim Damascus Gate area on Wednesday as Israeli authorities announced that non-Muslims would be banned from visiting the Al-Aqsa mosque compound from Friday until the end of Ramadan at the end of the month.
“Israel is and will continue to maintain the status quo on the Temple Mount, and we have no intention of changing it,” Israeli Foreign Minister Yar Rapid said Thursday during a meeting with a U.S. State Department delegation sent to the region to help. restore calm.
Jordan, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, which have official relations with Israel, have all condemned Israel’s actions in Jerusalem. The Arab-Israeli Ra’am party, a key coalition ally of the Israeli government, has announced the suspension of its parliamentary activities over what it calls Israel’s “irregularities” in Al-Aqsa.
“This year’s violence is smaller [compared with the lead-up to last year’s Gaza war]but the problem is, the focus of the past week has been on the religious element of the conflict, Al-Aqsa and the Temple Mount, Ramadan and Passover, which is very dangerous,” said Ibrahim Dalarsha, director of the Horizon Center. Mara Think Tank.
Two rockets were fired from Gaza into southern Israel this week, although no Palestinian faction has claimed responsibility. In response, Israel launched two air strikes on Hamas military targets. There were no reports of injuries on either side. It was the first such exchange of fire between Palestinians and Israel in the Gaza Strip since January.
Analysts say neither Hamas nor Israel are likely to plan to resume outright hostilities. “Hamas has been careful to exclude Gaza, they are not ready [after last year’s war]”For them, the time for confrontation in Gaza is not ripe, but the time is ripe for escalating tensions in Jerusalem and the West Bank. “