Palestinians clash with Israeli police in Beit-ul-Moqaddas

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Ahmad GHARABLI/AFP
Palestinian worshippers run for cover as Israeli forces fire tear gas following protest prayers held outside Beit-ul-Moqaddas’ Old City on July 21, 2017.

Palestinian protesters clashed with Israeli forces outside Beit-ul-Moqaddas’ Old City on Friday as tensions mounted over new security measures at a highly sensitive holy site.

The unrest came after Israeli ministers decided not to order the removal of metal detectors erected at entrances to the Haram al-Sharif Mosque compound following an attack nearby a week ago that killed two Israeli policemen, AFP reported.

In anticipation of protests on Friday, Israeli police barred men under 50 from entering Beit-ul-Moqaddas’ Old City for prayers, while all women were allowed in.

Police said later in the day that discretion could be applied in the use of the metal detectors instead of forcing everyone to go through them.

But Palestinian and religious leaders were still calling on worshippers not to enter until they were removed.

Hundreds held midday prayers near the gates of the Old City in protest. According to police, dozens of people entered the compound.

Crowds gathered outside Beit-ul-Moqaddas’ Old City found shops closed and streets around Damascus Gate – the entrance most heavily used by Palestinians – blocked.

A group of several hundred people, including Muslim leaders, marched towards the Lions Gate entrance to the mosque compound, but police informed them that only men aged 50 or over would be allowed in.

Police later 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.

The Palestinian Red Crescent ambulance service said at least 30 people had been hurt, two seriously and some suffered from tear gas inhalation.

“They turned back everyone who came here to pray but then I told them I was going to the doctor, but they did not let me in,” said Ulfat Hamad, 42, who was visiting from the United States.

“I am going to pray here with others,” he said outside the walls.

Tensions have risen since police installed the metal detectors in a move Palestinians and other Muslims perceive as a means for Israel to assert further control over the compound containing the revered Al-Aqsa Mosque and Dome of the Rock.

The controversy has resonated beyond Israel and the Palestinian territories, with the United States and the UN Middle East envoy expressing concern.

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