Fresh Clashes at Al Aqsa, Jerusalem and Qalandia checkpoint

October 10, 2009

Ever since the Jewish holidays began, Rosh Hashana, Jewish New Year, Yom Kippur and now Sukkot– there has been a lot of trouble in East Jerusalem which has contributed to the already high tensions due to the Israeli government’s plan to Judaize East Jerusalem–internationally considered part of the Palestinian occupied territories. 

The Israeli government has been handing out eviction notices left and right to Palestinian families in the Sheikh Jarrah and Silwan neighborhoods of E Jerusalem who have lived there for centuries–so that Israeli settlers can move into their houses.

Since the Jewish Holidays began a few weeks ago, the Old City has become even more occupied than usual.  Every time I have walked past the Damascus Gate and the rest of the Old City it has been surrounded by Israeli police and military–and gates have been set up to prevent Palestinians from entering the Old City (this is technically occupied territory–and besides settlers, is populated by the original pre- 1948  populations of Arab christians, muslims, and jews) .  Instead of seeing Damascus Gate busy and full of Palestinian vendors and buyers, it was empty except for Israeli settlers and orthodox being allowed past the police.

Since the Al Aqsa mosque, the third most holy site in Islam, is located on the old Jewish temple mount in the Old City, many Israelis–especially the orthodox and settlers (the most extreme of Israelis) have used the Israeli police and military to invade the Al Aqsa compound without permission or even trying to coordinate beforehand.

The 2nd Intifada (or Al Aqsa Intifada) began in 2000 after Ariel Sharon forced his way into Al Aqsa on Yom Kippur. History repeats itself every year as settlers and orthodox break into the compound on Yom Kippur (and other holidays), with the Israeli police and military supporting them.

In order to “make it safe” for the settlers and orthodox to break into Al Aqsa, the police and military have to blockade the entire Old City.  They dont allow in any Palestinian males under the age of 50.  And if they live in the Old City, they are forced to stay inside, during “curfew periods” to allow the Israelis safe passage through the Muslim quarter.

Because of all of this, the Palestinians–along with the Jerusalem Christians–have protested these Israeli policies and have organized a kind of “sit in” at Al Aqsa to protect the holy site.  The Israeli police and military responded to this by blockading them inside for days. 

There have been clashes and protests all over the Old City and tensions are running high…

Because the Palestinians of Jerusalem called on all Muslims from the West Bank to come and defend the mosque, the Israelis closed the checkpoints from the West Bank to Jerusalem–not allowing anyone in or out…

On Fridays, when Palestinians who have the Jerusalem ID want to go and pray in Al Aqsa, the Israelis closed the checkpoint.  Yesterday there was a huge clash at Qalandia- the checkpoint from Ramallah to Jerusalem. 

Many Palestinians trying to go to Jerusalem were stopped at the checkpoint, then a crowd and traffic gathered.  Finally, clashes broke out between the Shabab (young boys) and the Israeli soldiers not allowing them their right to go to Jerusalem and Al Aqsa.

Qalandia was like a war zone.  Stones and concrete blocks in the middle of the road (and its a main road that goes in front of Qalandia–leading to Jericho, Bethlehem and Hebron…).  Soldiers were shooting teargas at passing traffic, business and homes near the checkpoint.  They shot rubber coated steel bullets and maybe some live ammunition at the protestors, injuring several.


Clashes have broken out in East Jerusalem amid high tensions after Palestinian groups called for a day of protest over access to al-Aqsa mosque.


Eleven police officers were injured and at least two Palestinians arrested as youths threw stones.

But Friday prayers at the flashpoint holy site passed off largely peacefully amid a heavy Israeli police presence.

Meanwhile, Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu said talks with US envoy George Mitchell were “constructive”.

Mr Mitchell was due to meet with Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas on Friday, and to hold further talks with Mr Netanyahu’s aides on Saturday.

US attempts to restart peace negotiations appear to have stalled over Israel’s refusal to meet US and Palestinian demands that it freeze all settlement activity in the West Bank.

Israel has made clear that it intends to keep building in East Jerusalem, where the Palestinians want the capital of their future state.


Israeli police arrest a Palestinian protester (09.10.09)

Two Palestinians were arrested in Jerusalem

The Palestinian Authority has accused Israel of seeking to “Judaise” East Jerusalem, and of allowing extremists access to the al-Aqsa mosque compound while denying it to Muslims.

Thousands of extra Israeli police were deployed on Friday after sporadic clashes over the past two weeks, apparently sparked by Palestinian fears that Jewish extremists were seeking to enter the third holiest site in Islam.

The complex, known to Muslims as Haram al-Sharif and Jews as Temple Mount, houses both al-Aqsa mosque and the Jewish holy site, the Western Wall.

The Islamist group Hamas had called for a “day of rage” on Friday, local media said, while its rival Fatah had urged a strike and peaceful protests in support of the mosque.

The Islamic Movement – a political organisation based in Israel – had urged Muslim citizens of Israel to flock to Jerusalem to “defend al-Aqsa”.


Palestinians pray outside the Old City in Jerusalem

Men under 50 were not allowed entry and prayed outside the Old City

On Friday Israeli police maintained restrictions under which only female worshippers and men over the age of 50 were permitted to enter the mosque area.

The site and surrounding area in the Old City remained calm, with many shops closed.

But in the Ras al-Amoud area of East Jerusalem, masked Palestinian youths began hurling stones at police in riot gear.

Clashes were reported at Qalandia checkpoint near the West Bank city of Ramallah.

And the Islamic movement Hamas held a rally in the Gaza Strip, which it controls.

Tensions have been high since 30 people were injured in a riot at the al-Aqsa complex in late September.

Palestinians threw stones at visitors they believed were right-wing Jews, although Israeli police say they were French tourists.

The site has been a flashpoint for violence in the past, including the beginning of the intifada or uprising that started in 2000.



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