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Israel installs checkpoint at entrance to Damascus Gate

Residents say new checkpoints are part of an Israeli attempt to take full control of Jerusalem
The checkpoint has been installed at one of the most popular entrances used by Palestinians (Twitter @SimriNajwan)

Israel completed the installation of a new watchtower checkpoint at a key entrance to the Old City of Jerusalem on Thursday, angering Palestinian residents of the city.

The checkpoint is one of three that Israel began to install last month at Damascus Gate, and residents say they are aimed at further preventing Palestinians' access to the Old City.

On Wednesday night, Israeli police and soldiers blocked Palestinian residents of the Old City from entering via Damascus Gate and began bringing in construction materials to build the checkpoint.

Another two concrete checkpoints are being built at the top of the gate's stairs.

Construction at the Damascus Gate area - one of the most popular entrances used by Palestinians - started a month after US President Donald Trump recognised Jerusalem as Israel's capital.

Construction of the checkpoint started a month after US President Donald Trump's recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital (Twitter @ThisIsAlquds)

It involved digging and uprooting trees and installing surveillance cameras equipped with sound detectors at the gate, according to witnesses. 

The area around Damascus Gate - which Palestinians call Bab al-Amoud - is a popular spot where Palestinians gather, drink coffee and sing national songs as a form of civil protest. It has also been the site of more formal demonstrations and violent clashes between protesters and Israeli police.

In October 2015, during a wave of violence sparked by political tensions, Palestinian youths attempted to stab Israeli military police in separate incidents near the gate. They were often shot and killed, with footage of the stabbing attempts going viral.

Since then, the Israeli military has used temporary checkpoints made of plastic sheets and scaffolding to stop and search Palestinians at random using the gate. 

Israeli Prime Minister said last June that he was considering instructing authorities to turn the area into a "sterile" zone, after a guard was stabbed to death there. 

'Pushing out Palestinians': Israel installs concrete checkpoints at Old City gate
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Mahdi Abdul Hadi, the head of the Palestinian Academic Society for the Study of International Affairs (PASSIA) based in Jerusalem, told MEE: "The checkpoints at Damascus Gate are aimed at paralysing any Palestinian social, religious and youthful movements in this site.

He added: "What we are witnessing are military and police procedures, under the umbrella of security, to push out Palestinians from their city."

In May 2017, Unesco issued a resolution which affirms the importance of the Old City and its walls for the three monotheistic religions.

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