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Israeli police attack Aqsa protesters ahead of annexation debate
Published Tuesday 25/02/2014 (updated) 26/02/2014 19:56
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Palestinian men scuffle with Israeli police at an alleyway leading
to the al-Aqsa Mosque compound on February 25, 2014 in the
Old City of Jerusalem.(AFP/Ahmad Gharabli)
JERUSALEM (Ma'an) -- Israeli troops and police raided the Al-Aqsa Mosque complex early Tuesday and forcefully dispersed Palestinian worshipers and protesters ahead of a Knesset debate on a plan to annex the mosque.

Witnesses told Ma'an that Israeli forces fired rubber-coated steel bullets and stun grenades at Muslim worshipers while protesters hurled stones.

Several worshipers were hurt as a result of the pepper spray and others were hit directly by rubber-coated bullets, witnesses said.

They added that Israeli intelligence agents stormed the Al-Aqsa complex through the Moroccan Gate and the Chain Gate and blockaded the prayer hall, closing its gates with chains.

Meanwhile, Jerusalemite students who study inside the complex were denied entry to Al-Aqsa, and three youths trying to access the complex though the Chain Gate were arrested, witnesses said.

Director of the Al-Aqsa Mosque Azzam al-Khatib said that Israeli forces also closed the Moroccan Gate and denied Jewish extremists entry to the complex.

He added that Israeli forces later pulled out and were deployed at the main gates.

Around 50 Palestinians had spent the night inside the complex in protest of an Israeli Knesset debate, scheduled for Tuesday, over a plan to place the holy site under full Israeli jurisdiction.

Their protest was also in reaction to reports that Israeli rightist organizations had announced plans to raise Israeli flags inside the Al-Aqsa complex.

A Palestinian man stands behind Israeli security forces standing
guard at an alleyway leading to the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound
on Feb. 25, 2014 in the Old City of Jerusalem (AFP/Ahmad Gharabli)

Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld told AFP that Israeli police used "means of dispersion" against stone-throwing protesters at the mosque.

Rosenfeld said there was "high tension" ahead of the Knesset debate, and that stones thrown by the Palestinians injured two policemen while three protesters were arrested.

Palestinian medics told AFP 15 protesters were injured by rubber-coated steel bullets.

Right-wing Israeli MK Moshe Feiglin initiated the Al-Aqsa annexation debate, which was originally scheduled for last Tuesday. On Wednesday, Feiglin visited the mosque escorted by Israeli police and a cameraman.

Due to the sensitive nature of the Al-Aqsa Mosque, Israel maintains a compromise with the Islamic trust that controls the compound -- overseen by Jordan -- to restrict the area for Muslim prayers.

Israeli forces, however, regularly escort Jewish visitors to the site, often leading to tension with Palestinians.

The compound, which sits just above the Western Wall plaza, houses both the Dome of the Rock and the Al-Aqsa mosque and is the third holiest site in Islam.

It is also venerated as Judaism's most holy place as it sits where Jews believe the First and Second Temples once stood. The Second Temple was destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD.

According to mainstream Jewish religious leaders, Jews are forbidden from entering for fear they would profane the "Holy of Holies," or the inner sanctum of the Second Temple.

Al-Aqsa is located in East Jerusalem, a part of the internationally recognized Palestinian territories that have been occupied by the Israeli military since 1967.

AFP contributed to this report
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1 ) Colin Wright / USA
25/02/2014 11:04
Well -- good stuff. If Israel annexes al-Aqsa -- or even if she formally debates doing so -- the West will no longer be able to pretend she's anything other than what she is, and even the most corrupt and cynical Muslim governments will have to take action. This may not prove to be a suicide note, but it'll do for now.

2 ) Julie / USA
26/02/2014 00:39
how much more obvious can izrael make the fact known that not only do they NOT want peace with Palestine, they also don't want any peace with their neighbors in any direction! best way to piss off jordan, etc. is to mess with this mosque..and izrael knows this very well. nice going, izrael, you are world champions at isolating, delegitimising & inciting more disdain for your rogue, borderless nation.

3 ) Rami / Palestine
26/02/2014 08:33
You know all those so-called "jihadists" that descended upon Syria and Egypt from parts all over the world...Eastern Europe, MENA, Philippines, Afghanistan, Iran, etc...many of them funded and armed by well-connected leaders and governments? Yeah, they claim to be fighting a "holy war." Now give those guys a reason a reason to attack Israel. That's essentially what the Knesset is doing. Fine, go ahead. I'll just sit back and watch the fireworks.

4 ) Colin Wright / USA
02/03/2014 02:41
To Julie #2: 'how much more obvious can izrael make the fact known that not only do they NOT want peace with Palestine, they also don't want any peace with their neighbors in any direction! ' As I've pointed out before, Israel is the only state in modern history -- and this includes Hitler's Germany and Stalin's Russia -- that has attacked every single one of its neighbors.
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