The tension worsens in Jerusalem with new confrontations in the Esplanade of the Mosques | International
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The third Friday of Ramadan, the Muslim holy month that this year coincides with Jewish Passover, has been marked by a resurgence of tension in Jerusalem. At least 57 Palestinians were injured in violent clashes with Israeli police at the Old City Mosque Grounds. The emergency services of the Palestinian Red Crescent evacuated 14 injured people to hospitals, two of them in serious condition.
The clashes broke out at dawn at the end of the first prayer of the day in the Al Aqsa mosque, the third holiest place in Islam, when two hundred young people threw stones and firecrackers. Security forces responded by firing stun grenades and rubber-coated bullets. The police justified their intervention in the religious compound in the threat posed by the disturbances to prayers at the nearby Wailing Wall, the main Jewish place of worship, located at the foot of the southwestern end of the Esplanade of the Mosques.
For a month, the Holy Land has been experiencing a wave of violence in which 14 deaths have occurred in firearm attacks in Israeli cities and 24 Palestinians have lost their lives in Israeli military actions in the occupied West Bank, as well as East Jerusalem, since 1967. In clashes and incidents in the surroundings of Al Aqsa with the security forces, more than 200 people have been wounded so far, three quarters of them in the violent clashes on the 15th, the second Friday of Ramadan.
Since last Monday, the launch of half a dozen rockets and projectiles from the Gaza Strip towards the south of Israel raises fears of the outbreak of a new open conflict between the Islamist militias of the Palestinian enclave and the Israeli army, like the one that was unleashed last year after a spiral of violence in Jerusalem. The rockets did not cause casualties, although they did cause material damage to a home. Retaliatory bombing by Israeli aircraft has been concentrated on Palestinian military installations in the open field.
Tension skyrocketed in particular on Wednesday afternoon, when hundreds of Jewish extremists paraded with Israeli flags in the direction of Damascus Gate, the main access to the Muslim quarter of the Old City, in a march that had not been approved by the authorities. A large deployment of security forces blocked their path to prevent them from clashing with Palestinian counter-demonstrators.
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The Palestinians accuse Israel of restricting prayers in the Temple Mount during Ramadan by the intrusion of security forces that are deployed to protect Jewish visitors to the compound. Several Arab governments have condemned “the attacks against the faithful in Al Aqsa”, while senior officials from the US State Department have met with members of the Israeli and Palestinian governments to try to defuse the tension.
The Israeli police allege that they only intervene to evict violent groups that threaten religious freedom, in compliance with the status quo in force in the Old City after more than half a century of occupation. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has expressed this Friday his “great concern” about the “widespread and indiscriminate use” of force by the Israeli security services on the Esplanade of the Mosques, reports Efe. This United Nations body has also questioned the “use of firearms by Palestinian militants” and the “intensification of Israel’s military operations in the West Bank.”
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