Israel detains scores of Palestinians ahead of planned al-Aqsa demonstration

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22 February 2019| 16 Jumadul Aakhir 1440| Middle East Eye

Israeli police forces detained at least 60 Palestinians in overnight raids in occupied East Jerusalem between Thursday and Friday, ahead of planned demonstrations at the al-Aqsa mosque compound over perceived threats to the status quo at the holy site.

Israeli police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said in a statement that forces “arrested 60 suspects involved in incitement to violence”, adding that “police will continue to make arrests and are operating to make sure the Friday prayers on the Temple Mount take place respectfully” – using the Israeli term for the al-Aqsa compound.

Hundreds of Palestinians nonetheless made their way to al-Aqsa on Friday for prayers, as activists called for more demonstrations to take place after the mid-day prayer.

Palestinian worshippers and activists have staged regular prayers and protests near the al-Rahmeh gate of the al-Aqsa compound since Sunday, after Israeli forces placed new chains on a fence preventing access to the gate since 2003.

The latest tensions came after members of the Waqf  – the Islamic endowment in charge of the holy site whose staff has recently increased – opened the al-Rahmeh Gate to the al-Aqsa Mosque compound on 14 February and prayed in the area.

Israeli forces responded on Sunday by sealing the gate with iron chains.

At least 19 Palestinians had been detained at al-Aqsa earlier in the week during altercations with Israeli forces attempting to break up protests against the new chains. The majority of those detained before Thursday have been released from police custody with bans on returning to al-Aqsa for at least two months.