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Palestinians pray outside the Old City

Approximately 4,000 Palestinian Muslims prayed outside the Old City of Jerusalem Wednesday, as it was partially blocked by Israeli police. (Photo: Ilia Yefimovich/Getty)

Amid Ongoing Israeli Crackdown, Three Palestinians Killed in Al-Aqsa Mosque Protests

Thousands of Palestinians and Israeli forces clashed Friday during protests against security devices recently installed at one of the world's holiest sites

Jessica Corbett

At least three Palestinians reportedly have been killed by gunfire, and more than a hundred injured, in clashes with Israeli forces on Friday, during large-scale protests against enhanced security measures at the Al-Aqsa mosque, according to reports from the Ma’an News Agency and Al-Jazeera

"An Israeli settler killed an 18-year-old Palestinian man in the Ras al-Amud neighborhood," Al-Jazeera reports. Hospital officials confirmed a second Palestinian was killed by live fire during the demonstrations after Friday prayer, and a third man died during clashes in the West Bank.

Thousands of Palestinian Muslims marched toward the mosque in Jerusalem's Old City on Friday, denouncing security devices Israeli officials installed at the mosque after an attack near the Lions' Gate entrance to the Old City left two Israeli police officers dead last week. In response to Friday's protests, at least 3,000 members of Israeli forces were deployed, and Israeli officials banned men under age 50 from entering the Old City.

The Palestinian Muslims gathered for Friday midday prayer at the Lions' Gate—where Israeli police installed metal barricades to block access—and AFP reports that police "fired stun grenades and tear gas towards protesters outside the Old City, while Palestinians threw stones and other objects at security forces in some areas."

For the past week, Palestinians have come to pray at the Lions' Gate entrance and, because of the newly-installed devices, have refused to enter the mosque, which is part of the holy site known to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary and to Jews as Temple Mount.

Following the violence on Friday, Jewish Voice for Peace released a statement outlining the ongoing battle for control of and access to the sacred site:

The imposition of metal detectors there is seen as an imposition of Israel’s power over the holy site. Israel has occupied the area since 1967 (though the Jordanian Waqf retains nominal "administrative" control of the holy site), and there is a growing movement by right-wing Israeli activists and officials to take over the site more fully…The Al-Aqsa Mosque is a central holy site for Muslims around the world, and the issue of freedom of religion and access to the site is of deep concern to many.

As the Ma'an News Agengy explained:

Palestinians have seen the measures at Al-Aqsa as the latest example of Israeli authorities using Israeli-Palestinian violence and tensions as a means of furthering control over important sites in the occupied Palestinian territory and normalizing heightened measures by Israeli forces targeting Palestinians.

Israeli security agencies have expressed concerns about leaving the devices in place at the mosque, but authories have not heeded their warnings, resulting in the mass demontrations on Friday. As the Ma’an News Agency reported:

The Waqf, the Islamic endowment administering Al-Aqsa, called earlier this week on all mosques in Jerusalem to be closed on Friday and for all Muslim worshipers in the city to head towards Al-Aqsa to denounce the installation of metal detectors, turnstiles, and additional security cameras in the compound...

Israel's intelligence service, the Shin Bet, and the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) have expressed reservations to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu about the use of metal detectors, arguing that the anger sparked by the measures might outweigh the security benefits of keeping them, Israeli media reported on Wednesday.

As AFP reported, "Friday prayers draw the largest number of worshippers—typically thousands—and speculation had been mounting that Netanyahu might order the removal of the detectors. But after consultations with security chiefs and members of his security cabinet, he decided not to."

Palestinians also demonstrated in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Friday, in solidarity with the protesters near the Old City. "Israeli forces have violently suppressed the protest in East Jerusalem, as well as other solidarity marches in the occupied West Bank and the besieged Gaza Strip," the Ma’an News Agency reported.

Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas has reportedly spoken to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan—who has called for the security apparatus at the mosque to be removed—as well as his U.S. counterpart Jared Kushner, President Donald Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser.

The Jewish Voice for Peace statement also expressed concern over escalations of violence against Palestinian protesters and worshippers beyond Friday's clashes:

While the escalation in Jerusalem has received attention today, far too little has been paid to the violence of the slow strangulation of Gaza. Israel's military occupation and blockade are at the heart of the current crises, and this context must be part of any story on Israel/Palestine. Jewish Voice for Peace calls for an end to the occupation, full equal rights for all Palestinians living under Israeli sovereignty, and an immediate end to the siege of Gaza. Only when these issues are addressed can progress be made towards a lasting peace with justice and safety for all people in the region.

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