Israeli occupation forces attacked Palestinian worshippers at the Lions Gate entrance to the al-Aqsa mosque compound in East Jerusalem on Tuesday night.
The Palestinian Quds news outlet reported that Israeli forces fired sound bombs and tear gas canisters, wounding dozens, and prevented ambulances from reaching the area.
Palestinian worshippers had continued to keep vigil outside the mosque compound on Tuesday. The Waqf religious trust that administers the site had called for continuation of a boycott as it evaluated the situation after Israel removed metal detectors the night before.
The metal detectors had been unilaterally installed along with security cameras following a shooting attack that left two Israeli police officers and three suspected Palestinian assailants dead earlier in the month. Israel claims that the alleged assailants ambushed the police officers from the compound.
The new Israeli measures were met with vigorous Palestinian protest and civil disobedience as well as international warnings against any change to the delicate status quo at the highly sensitive holy site.
Four Palestinians were shot dead during protests in the Jerusalem area and hundreds more demonstrators were wounded throughout the occupied West Bank and Gaza over the weekend.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s cabinet decided to remove the metal detectors but not the security cameras late Monday night. Israeli media reported that the cabinet decided to replace the metal detectors with security cameras that have facial recognition capabilities and are connected to a biometric database.
Israeli journalists reported late Tuesday night that Netanyahu had directed Gilad Erdan, Israel’s public security minister, and police to conduct body checks on anyone who enters the mosque compound:
Meanwhile Avi Dichter, a senior Israeli lawmaker from Netanyahu’s Likud party who formerly headed the country’s secret police, told Israeli television that the government had decided “to turn the Temple Mount into a sterile area – with all that this entails,” employing the term Israel uses for the mosque compound.
“The Temple Mount is under Israeli sovereignty, period,” he said.
No country recognizes Israel’s claim to sovereignty over East Jerusalem, which is part of the occupied West Bank.
Dichter is one of many Israeli leaders openly advocating for greater Israeli control if not an outright takeover of the site, one of the holiest shrines for Muslims and a touchstone of Palestinian identity.
Several Israeli lawmakers openly support a government-funded extremist movement which seeks to destroy Islamic holy sites at the al-Aqsa mosque compound and replace them with a Jewish temple.
Palestinians view Israel’s measures at al-Aqsa as part of an effort to erase all Palestinian life in the city, like it has in the area of the historic Ibrahimi mosque in Hebron, where an American Jewish settler massacred Palestinian worshippers in 1994.
Video shows hundreds of Palestinians gathered at Lions Gate pledging to defend al-Aqsa on Tuesday night:
Videos show terrifying scenes as Israeli forces fire on the crowd of men, women and children:
Israeli forces shot crowd control weapons at people running away from them:
Children were said to be among those injured:
Journalists were also among those assaulted on Tuesday, including Faiz Abu Rmeleh, whose photographs have been published by The Electronic Intifada.
Video posted by the Activestills collective, of which Abu Rmeleh is a member, show his assault and subsequent arrest:
Journalist Fatima al-Bakri was also injured.
The Committee to Protect Journalists had previously reported that at least six Palestinian journalists were injured while covering al-Aqsa protests on 20 and 21 July.
Sinan Abu Maizer, a cameraman for Reuters, was filming at Lions Gate on 20 July when he was hit on the head with a police baton, causing a concussion and an open wound.
Mirna Alatrash, a reporter with the Ma’an News Agency, was hit in the face with a tear gas canister while covering a protest at a checkpoint in Bethlehem on 21 July while her colleague Muhammad Lahham collapsed from tear gas inhalation.
Rami al-Khatib, a freelance photographer, was punched in the chest by an Israeli officer when he presented the officer with his press card, a Palestinian press freedom group told the Committee to Protect Journalists.
Other reporters were injured by rubber-coated steel bullets and sound bombs.
Storming of hospital
Al-Makassed hospital in Jerusalem reported receiving 10 patients injured by tear gas and rubber-coated steel bullets on Tuesday, most of them journalists and paramedics.
The hospital has been stormed by Israeli soldiers and police twice over the past week, “terrifying staff and patients and in some cases preventing doctors from providing emergency medical care to critically injured patients,” Amnesty International stated on Tuesday.
Hospital staff told Amnesty that on 21 July, “around 200 heavily armed soldiers surrounded the hospital and entered forcefully, arresting people in their path and using tear gas. They were pursuing a young man with a major chest wound in critical condition and followed him all the way to the operating theater.”
“They invaded the entire hospital … They even entered the neonatal unit … What do they want in there? It was pure terrorization of the patients,” Talal al-Sayed, head of reception at al-Makassed, told Amnesty.
“I have never been so scared in my life. All I remember were loud sounds and pushing and screaming. It was total chaos,” said a nurse who was on duty at the time of the raid. “There was blood all over the place on the floor, on the walls.”
Video uploaded to social media showed the body of Muhammad Abu Ghanam, a Palestinian youth shot and fatally wounded by police that same day, being smuggled out of the hospital before Israeli forces could confiscate his remains.
“The conduct of Israeli forces who carried out violent raids on al-Makassed hospital harassing and intimidating staff and patients is utterly deplorable,” stated Magdalena Mughrabi, Amnesty’s deputy director for the Middle East and North Africa.
“There can be no justification for preventing medical workers from caring for a critically wounded patient.”