Israel accused of showing ‘sweeping disregard’ for Palestinian life in Jerusalem

As Israeli forces continued to impose a violent crackdown on Palestinians praying outside of Al-Aqsa Mosque as an act civil disobedience against new security measures at the holy site, Israeli NGO B’Tselem accused Israel of displaying “sweeping disregard” of Palestinian lives in occupied East Jerusalem.

Israeli police detained and injured at least one demonstrator on Tuesday morning, local sources told Ma’an, as reports emerged that additional, more advanced surveillance technology would being installed around the mosque.

Protests have been ongoing for more than week, as Israeli police have developed a pattern of aggressively attempting to disperse peaceful worshipers in the streets surrounding the mosque at prayer times throughout the day.

The Palestinian Red Crescent said that in the span of 10 days, approximately 376 Palestinians were injured — one with live fire, 193 with rubber-coated steel bullets, 14 having suffered from severe tear gas inhalation, and 168 having been “assaulted and run over.”

Meanwhile, four Palestinians have been shot and killed by Israeli police during clashes since protests reached a violent peak last Friday.

On Tuesday morning, worshipers performed the dawn prayer at the Lions’ Gate both from inside the compound and from outside, despite Israeli police attempts to forcibly prevent them.

Locals in the different East Jerusalem neighborhoods confirmed to Ma’an that dozens of worshipers flooded to Al-Aqsa Mosque when they heard calls through mosque loudspeakers in their neighborhoods, urging them to gather at Al-Aqsa, after excavators and trucks were seen removing soil and rocks and pulling out several trees in a courtyard outside of Lions’ Gate.

Witnesses said Israeli forces fired stun grenades at the worshipers to coerce them to leave and detained at least one man in the area after he was injured and was bleeding from his face.

Israeli police spokesperson Luba al-Samri had said in a statement that after the previous night’s prayer at the Lions’ Gate, worshipers leaving the area allegedly threw rocks at Israeli forces, lightly injuring two officers.

She said Israeli forces used “riot-dispersal” means on the worshipers, and said one “suspected rioter” was detained. Another Palestinian was also detained in the Silwan neighborhood after he allegedly threw stones at a passing vehicle, al-Samri added.

B’Tselem denounced in a statement on Monday the new security restrictions, which in addition to the controversial Al-Aqsa metal detectors — which Israel has started to remove, only to introduce new “smart” cameras at the mosque’s gates — have included thousands of heavily armed police and checkpoints around the Old City barring access to non-resident Palestinians of the Old City.

The human rights organization also condemned Israeli forces for their “excessive and unjustified force against worshipers.”

“B’Tselem’s investigation shows that in at least one instance during Friday noon prayers in the Ras al-Amud area of East Jerusalem police began firing crowd control means as soon as the prayers ended,” the report said.

The NGO also highlighted that during the widespread, violent clashes that occurred on Friday, Israeli police “raided al-Makassed Hospital in East Jerusalem, fired stun grenades and teargas in the yard outside the hospital and used violence against the medical staff, hospital employees, and visitors. In at least one case, the officers disrupted the medical treatment of a seriously injured person. Such actions are entirely unjustified.”

“During these recent events, Israel has repeatedly demonstrated sweeping disregard for the lives and security of Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem, and for their right to maintain a normal routine,” B’Tselem wrote.

“The Israel police treated Palestinian residents as if they were enemy soldiers, rather than as a civilian population for whose wellbeing and security it is responsible.”

The human rights group argued the conduct was part of Israel’s wider policy of control over occupied East Jerusalem, in which “Israeli authorities view the Palestinian residents as an undesirable presence, people who are worth less, with all this implies, including the use of lethal force. Nothing but comprehensive and substantive change to this regime of control, and to the reality in Jerusalem, will ensure the human rights of all the people living in the city.”