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Israel shuts down East Jerusalem for Yom Kippur

Israeli authorities install barriers on major roads and force shops to close in Old City, while settlers break into al-Aqsa
A Palestinian man and woman walk past a concrete roadblock set up by Israeli security forces on a road linking occupied East Jerusalem with West Jerusalem, 15 September 2021 (AFP)

Israeli forces on Thursday blocked main roads in occupied East Jerusalem on the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur, restricting Palestinian movement to their neighbourhoods, while Israeli settlers broke into al-Aqsa Mosque in the Old City.

Palestinian news agency Wafa reported that security forces blocked several roads in front of Palestinian vehicles on Thursday morning, in a closure that was expected to remain in place until the evening. 

Israeli authorities installed iron and cement blocks as barriers at Road 1, which connects Palestinian areas north of Jerusalem to the Old City and southward to the Hebron Road that leads to Bethlehem city and links East Jerusalem to its western side.

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Meanwhile, a road bridge in Beit Hanina, a significant Palestinian neighbourhood, was also blocked by Israeli police, preventing people from entering and exiting.

Wafa reported that Palestinian shops in the Old City were forced to close by Israeli authorities in keeping with Yom Kippur, a Jewish religious holiday requiring people to fast and refrain from work.

Also on Thursday, Israeli far-right settlers broke into the al-Aqsa compound in East Jerusalem, flanked by security forces. Mohammed Hussein, the Palestinian mufti and imam of al-Aqsa Mosque, warned that such settler tours aimed to increase Jewish presence on the site and provoke Muslim worshippers. 

Israeli settler groups regularly enter the al-Aqsa compound - which they refer to as the Temple Mount - during religious holidays.

On 8 September, dozens of rightwing Jewish Israelis entered the compound as Israel celebrated the holiday of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year.

On Wednesday evening, clashes erupted between Palestinians and Israeli forces in Silwan, a neighbourhood south of al-Aqsa Mosque, and at Bab Hutta, a gate close to the al-Aqsa compound, Wafa reported.

Israel occupied East Jerusalem during the 1967 Middle East War. It annexed the entire city in 1980, in a move unrecognised by the vast majority of the international community.

The Old City of Jerusalem and the al-Aqsa compound remain the most sensitive components of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

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