In recent weeks, tensions have risen in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Six Palestinians were killed by Israeli forces. Palestinians mourned the deaths. Violence between Gaza and southern Israel renewed. At the same time, tension increased at Al-Aqsa mosque as Israeli forces closed access for worshippers.
by Jerusalem team
Worshippers pray outside an Israeli military flying checkpoint in the Old City streets when not allowed access to pray at Al Aqsa mosque. Photo EAPPI/K. Ranta.
In recent months Israeli settlers have continuously harrassed the Al-Aqsa mosque, the third most holy site for Muslims. In one instance, Israeli settlers entered into the mosque area with the support of Israeli forces and tried to take an Israeli flag inside the mosque, which then turned into clashes with Palestinians.
As EAPPI monitors we have witnessed heavy military and police presence in the Old City of Jerusalem especially during Friday prayers; a presence that contributes to an atmosphere of tension.
On Friday February 28 Israeli military closed access to pray in the Al-Aqsa mosque for thousands of men under 50 years old. In a peaceful response, worshippers lined the streets of the Old City to pray, despite heavy military presence.
Israeli forces closed access to Al Aqsa mosque for men under the age of 50. 28 February 2014. Photo EAPPI/K. Ranta.
Again, on Friday March 14 men under 40 were blocked from entering the Al-Aqsa Mosque for Friday prayers. Israeli forces set up flying checkpoints within and outside of the Old City of Jerusalem. The Israeli military inspected the IDs of Palestinians and turned many away, forcing them to pray in the streets.
Israeli soldiers set up a flying checkpoint in the Old City of Jerusalem on Friday. They check the IDs of Palestinians before granting access to pray at Al Aqsa mosque. Photo EAPPI/K. Ranta.
In the past week, Palestinians mourned after six people were killed in the West Bank and three in Gaza. Many of the demonstrations turned into clashes between Palestinians and Israeli forces. On Tuesday March 11, EAPPI monitors witnessed a peaceful protest in front of the Damascus Gate in memory of the killed Palestinians and for the right to pray at the Al-Aqsa mosque.
Israel’s Military Order 101, dating back to 1967, prohibits all gatherings of 10 or more persons “for a political purpose” unless they have received authorization in advance under a permit issued by the Israeli military commander in the area. Without this, there is a threat of imprisonment for up to 10 years and/or a grave fine, according to a recent Amnesty report.
Soldiers position outside Damascus gate during a demonstration against the killing of Palestinians and for the right for access to pray in Al Aqsa mosque. Photo EAPPI/K. Ranta.
Tuesday’s events reflected this military order. After 10 minutes of the demonstration minutes, Israeli riot police started to shoot sound grenades into the middle of the crowd. Israeli riot police also injured several people with rubber bullets and batons by Israeli forces. EAs eyewitnessed brutal maltreatment of two arrested young men in the middle of the street. We wondered, if this is what happens when we are here to witness, what is happening to Palestinians when hidden from the public eye?
On 27th of February Amnesty International published a new report Trigger-happy: Israel’s use of excessive force in the West Bank about human rights abuses in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. According to the report there were 27 Palestinians killed in 2013, 8 in 2012, and 10 in 2011. So far in 2014, 5 Palestinians were killed by Israeli forces.
We thought of the Palestinians killed. We thought of the renewed violence in Gaza and southern Israel. We wondered, how many will have to die this year?And when will the international community say enough is enough?