Friday, September 17, 2021

Palestinians clash with Israel police at Jerusalem holy site

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JERUSALEM (AP) – Palestinians protested after Friday prayers at the Al-Aqsa mosque compound in Jerusalem and briefly clashed with Israeli police, leaving three protesters injured.

A series of much more violent clashes at the site in April and May helped ignite Gaza’s 11-day war last month. The site is the third holiest in Islam and the holiest for Jews, who refer to it as the Temple Mount because it was the location of biblical temples.

It has often been the scene of Israeli-Palestinian violence. This time, the police refrained from entering the compound and appeared to act with more restraint, possibly on the orders of the newly sworn-in Israeli government. The Red Crescent emergency service said two Palestinians were injured by rubber bullets and a third by a stone that was thrown.

Palestinian youths could be seen throwing stones at the police stationed at the entrance to the complex, who fired stun grenades and rubber-coated bullets.

Hundreds of people demonstrated after Friday prayers in response to a rally organized by Jewish ultranationalists on Tuesday in which dozens had chanted “Death to the Arabs” and “Let your village burn.” Palestinians protested insulting the Prophet Muhammad of Islam, after an online video showed some of the participants in Tuesday’s march denigrating him.

Tensions have remained high since an informal ceasefire halted the Gaza war on May 21. Tuesday’s rally was held to celebrate Israel’s capture of East Jerusalem, including the Old City and its holy sites, during the 1967 war. The police forcibly expelled Palestinians from the route of the march and provided reassurance, as many in the crowd made racist chants.

In Gaza, meanwhile, activists mobilized by the Hamas militant rulers of the territory have sent incendiary balloons across the border into Israel, setting fields and farmland ablaze. Israel launched airstrikes on Wednesday and Thursday, targeting what it said were Hamas facilities.

There were no casualties from the attacks, but the violence risked undoing the truce negotiated by Egyptian mediators, who have been meeting with both Israel and Hamas to solidify it.

Israel swore in a new government last weekend, ending the 12 years in power of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. It relies on a fragile coalition of parties from across Israel’s political spectrum and is expected to try to sideline the Palestinian issue as much as possible.

Israel captured the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem in the 1967 war, territories the Palestinians want for a future state. The peace process stopped more than a decade ago.

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