Seven Palestinians were detained as clashes erupted with Israeli forces at al-Aqsa Mosque compound Feb. 28, with discord reported throughout the Old City of occupied East Jerusalem. Israeli police stormed the compound, known to Jews as the Temple Mount, after Palestinian youths barricaded inside and threw stones at visitors they believed to be radical Jewish settlers. The protesters staged the occupation in response to rumors that militant Jews planned to take over the compound during the Purim holiday that began that day. They were also protesting Israel’s recent decision to add the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron and Rachel’s Tomb in Bethlehem to its list of national heritage sites.
Three Palestinians were injured by rubber bullets and seven were hurt by police batons, medics said. Four Israeli police were also reported injured. Hours later, an Israeli security guard was shot and wounded in the nearby Jerusalem village of Silwan, known to Jews as the City of David.
Israeli defense officials warned that Jerusalem and the West Bank are on the brink of a new Palestinian uprising, and charged Palestinian leaders like Prime Minister Salam Fayyad with fueling the unrest. Fayyad has publicly labeled the inclusion of West Bank sites on the national heritage list a “provocation.” (Ma’an News, Israel Today, March 1; NYT, CNN, Feb. 28)
Hamas and Islamic Jihad urged an escalation of protests in the West Bank in response to the violence at al-Aqsa, with Islamic Jihad staging a mass rally in Gaza. Islamic Jihad leader Muhammad Al-Hindi told the assembled crowd that Israel “only understands the language of force…. The might of the occupying power will not intimidate us, will not change our conviction in our souls and in our bodies, to give up an inch of Jerusalem, which will remain Palestinian and Muslim.” Al-Hindi called on the leaders of rival factions Hamas and Fatah to immediately unite in opposition to Israel. (Ma’an News, March 1)
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