Ramallah – More than a hundred people were injured and many others detained during violent confrontations outside al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem on Thursday, shortly after Palestinians began celebrating their return to the holy compound, with the removal of all Israeli security measures at its entrances.
Tens of thousands of Palestinians entered Aqsa to perform the afternoon prayers, after receiving green light from religious authorities, as Israel removed electronic gates and smart surveillance cameras that it had set up at the mosque main gates.
However, celebrations soon turned into clashes outside the Huta gate when cheers and sweets distributed by Palestinians provoked the police, which attacked the mosque and took down Palestinian flags. The entrance to the mosque was only allowed to elderly people and women.
Israeli forces attacked worshipers outside and inside the mosque with bullets and sound and gas grenades, while worshipers responded by throwing stones and empty bottles, leaving more than 50 wounded among worshipers and injuring two police officers.
Earlier on Thursday, Palestinian religious authorities have ended a boycott to the entry to the mosque as Israel removed all security measures and returned the security infrastructure to how it was before July 14.
“The battle of the holy Aqsa Mosque is the battle of sovereignty over the city of Jerusalem, which saw the victory of the Arab Palestinian people and its leadership, and dropped the Occupation’s claims and allegations,” Palestinian Government’s Official Spokesperson, Youssef al-Mahmoud, stated.
Mahmoud called for unifying ranks “to complete the struggle until reaching the ultimate goal of ending the occupation and establishing an independent Palestinian state with Arab Jerusalem as its capital”.
The decision to remove all security measures has sparked strong criticism among Israeli officials.
Israel’s Education Minister and member of the security cabinet, Naftali Bennett, said that Israel had been weakened by the decision.
“The truth has to be told. Instead of establishing our sovereignty in Jerusalem, a message was sent that our sovereignty could be shaken,” he stated.
David Bitan, head of the Israeli government coalition, which is close to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, lashed out at the Shin Bet security services.
“They are cowards … They want to give their recommendations and then go home,” he said.
Meanwhile, during a meeting with Palestinian officials and security forces, President Mahmoud Abbas announced the return of the prayers inside the mosque, praising the steadfastness of Jerusalemites in the face of the Israeli occupation.
Abbas noted that all his steps were coordinated with “His Majesty King Abdullah II, His Majesty King Salman bin Abdulaziz, His Excellency President Abdul Fattah el Sisi, His Majesty King Mohammed VI, Turkey, the Arab League, the Islamic Summit and the United Nations.”