Israel limits access to al-Aqsa compound after attacks

Israeli police install metal detectors around the Old City in occupied East Jerusalem as city braces for protests.

Israel has imposed fresh restrictions on Palestinian entry to the al-Aqsa Mosque compound in occupied East Jerusalem following a spate of attacks against Israelis. 

In addition to extending a ban for men under the age of 45 who want to pray at the mosque on Friday, Israeli police have installed metal detectors at several entrances to Jerusalem’s Old City. 

Thousands of police officers were also deployed across the city. 

“Police have made security assessments for Friday prayers and have added many metal detectors and extra checkpoints throughout the Old City, and will continue to closely monitor Arab neighbourhoods,” police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld told local media. 

The restrictions come a day after at least eight Israelis were injured in four separate stabbing attacks. 

Early on Thursday, a 25-year-old Israeli yeshiva student was severely injured as a result of being stabbed in upper body. 

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Hours later a stabbing attack in Tel Aviv injured four people, including an Israeli soldier. A Palestinian suspect was shot and killed at the scene. He was identified as 25-year-old Thaer Abu Ghazaleh. 

Another pair of attacks – one in the northern Israeli city of Afula and the other in the West Bank settlement of Kiryat Arba – left two Israelis injured. 

Four Israelis have been killed in attacks by Palestinians since October 1. 

Uptick in violence

The uptick in violence comes after months of tensions over the al-Aqsa Mosque compound. An increase in Israeli visits to the compound  have fed fears among Palestinians  that Israel is moving to divide the compound into two separate areas of worship for Jews and Muslims. 

Israeli settlers have also  launched a wave of attacks  targeting Palestinians in areas across the West Bank. 

At least 31 Palestinians have been killed since the beginning of the year, according to United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs’ figures. 

Of that total, six Palestinians were killed by Israeli security forces since Saturday. Among them were three protesters, including a 13-year-old boy, and three suspects in stabbing attacks who were fatally shot at the scene. 

Israeli forces have responded harshly to protests, using live ammunition in some cases. 

“The death of a child after security forces used live ammunition against demonstrators should be a wake-up call for Israeli officials,” said Joe Stork , Human Rights Watch’s deputy Middle East director, in a statement. 

“Israel needs to ensure that its police and army comply with international standards for the use of force.”

At least 1,600 Palestinians have been injured during confrontations with Israeli security forces or Jewish settlers since October 3, according to the Palestinian Red Crescent. 

Netanyahu criticised

“We are in the midst of a wave of terror,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said at a press conference on Thursday night. “There is no magic solution and the actions [we are taking] will not yield instant results, but with methodical determination we will prove that terror does not pay and we will defeat it.”

Frustration boiling over in occupied West Bank

Netanyahu called for a unity government that includes the opposition, led by the centrist Zionist Union electoral coalition. “I have said from the beginning that I think at this time, in light of what is happening in the Middle East, there is a reason for a wide government, and wide united front,” he said.

But the prime minister has come under fire from politicians across the political spectrum. 

Zionist Union parliamentarian Shelly  Yacimovich rebuffed his offer in a Twitter post: “Unity government? Why? To create a false impression that the opposition has a part in his failure to provide security?”

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Isaac Herzog, leader of the opposition, called for Netanyahu to resign. “Had we been in government, we would have known to calm the situation in Jerusalem a lot better,” he wrote in a Facebook post Thursday night. 

Call to arms

Israeli leaders have also called on Israeli citizens to carry arms. 

On Thursday, Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat was photographed carrying an assault rifle during a visit to Beit Hanina, a Palestinian neighbourhood in East Jerusalem. 

“I have a licensed gun,” Barkat said. “Every time there is tension, I instruct people who are allowed to carry weapons and are experienced in using them to carry their guns with them.” 

“If you check, you’ll see that in many cases, those who neutralised terrorists were citizens who aren’t necessarily police officers, like former soldiers.”

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Deputy Defense Minister Eli Ben-Dahan echoed Barkat’s comments, urging Israelis with gun licenses to “be alert and prevent another terrorist attack”. 

“Demolishing terrorists’ houses and deporting their families is the best deterrent and most efficient way to deal with terrorism by individuals,” Ben-Dahan said. 

Other politicians, among them Education Minister Naftali Bennett and Knesset member Yinon Magal, praised Israelis who used firearms in recent stabbing attacks. 

“I’m not saying we should take the law into our hands and lynch people,” Magal said. “Whoever is trying to kill us should be taken out.”

In the Gaza Strip, Hamas and Islamic Jihad will both hold protests after Friday prayers. 

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies