Israeli authorities on Thursday evening decided to reopen Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa mosque compound after ordering its closure and following Arab and US calls for Muslim worshippers to be allowed in.
“It was decided to restore (the compound) to normal … effective immediately,” police spokeswoman Luba Samri told AFP, adding that because of a fear of unrest at Friday midday prayers, entry for men would be restricted to those over 50.
The decision follows a full day of closure to Muslim worshipers following the shooting of right-wing Jewish activist Yehuda Glick at a rally the night before, amid rising tensions amid fears of a Jewish settler backlash.
Glick was a prominent proponent of plans to destroy the Al-Aqsa mosque and rebuild a Jewish temple in the area, and the attempt on his life was assumed to be linked to months of restrictions on Muslim worshipers at the site as well as an upcoming vote in the Israeli Knesset to potentially divide the site into areas of Muslim and Jewish worship.
The shooting prompted clashes across occupied East Jerusalem and an Israeli military raid on a Silwan home that left Palestinian Mutaz Hijazi, 32, dead. Police claimed to have identified him as the perpetrator of the shooting.
On Thursday morning, the courtyards of the Al-Aqsa mosque sat eerily quiet, and eyewitnesses said only eight Palestinians managed to enter to pray the dawn prayer in the normally full compound.
Afternoon and evening prayers, meanwhile, saw the attendance of only the 30-40 people who all employed in the office of Islamic endowments at the compound.
Hundreds of Palestinians, meanwhile, prayed in the alleys of the old city under heavy Israeli security presence, having been denied entrance to the compound.
In al-Wad street in the Old City, which leads to the Council Gate of the compound, Israeli forces clashed with Palestinians, firing stun grenades and rubber-coated steel bullets at them, and hitting some with batons and rifles.
One Palestinian was injured from a splinter from a stun grenade that hit his head.
‘Day of Rage’
The Fatah movement in Jerusalem called for a day of rage against Israeli authorities on Friday following the killing of Mutaz Hijazi, in what many have compared to an extrajudicial assassination by Israeli security forces.
Shot on the rooftop of his family home, Hijazi was still alive when Israeli soldiers entered the premises. Eyewitnesses say that instead of arresting him, the soldiers dropped a water tank on his injured body, killing him, and later stole his body from a Red Crescent ambulance that tried to take him away.
The secretary-general of the Fatah movement in Jerusalem, Adnan Ghaith, told Ma’an that the killing Mutaz Hijazi without giving him a chance to defend himself and without definitive proof that he was responsible for the shooting, was an “act of terrorism” by Israel.
“Israeli crimes are systematically increasing to target Jerusalem through killing, detentions, assaults, demolishing houses, and preventing worshipers from praying inside the compounds of the Al-Aqsa mosque.”
Ghaith added that this discrimination and targeting of Palestinians in the city had led directly to the shooting of right-wing activist Yehuda Glick.
Fatah condemned the killing of Hijazi, and all Israeli violations against Jerusalem and its holy sites, especially the Al-Aqsa mosque.
Although Palestinians in East Jerusalem live within territory Israel has unilaterally annexed, they lack citizenship rights and are instead classified only as “residents” whose permits can be revoked if they move away from the city for more than a few years.
They face discrimination in all aspects of life including housing, employment, and services, and are unable to access services in the West Bank due to the construction of Israel’s separation wall.
Anger has also been fueled by widespread discontent at the Israeli offensive on Gaza that killed nearly 2,200 Palestinians dead and injured more than 11,000.
East Jerusalem is internationally recognized as Palestinian territory, but Israel occupied it in 1967 and later annexed it in a move never considered legitimate abroad.
(Agencies and Ma’an – www.maannews.net)