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Palestinians call for 'day of rage' as Jerusalem tension threatens to boil over

Call comes as Palestinians injured in Israeli attack on worshippers outside al-Aqsa mosque
Israeli officers clash with worshippers in Jerusalem, 18 July (Reuters)

Palestinians are calling for a "day of rage", as several worshippers were injured, at least one seriously, in clashes with Israeli police near Jerusalem's al-Aqsa mosque after Muslim evening prayers on Tuesday.

Muslims had been praying outside the mosque, Islam’s third holiest site, to protest Israeli restrictions on the compound, including metal detectors.

Fatah, the party of Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas, called for a “day of rage” on Wednesday, to condemn the Israeli measures around the mosque in Jerusalem. Other Palestinian factions, including Hamas, also urged Palestinians to protest across the West Bank and Gaza.

Israeli newspaper Haaretz said 14 Palestinian worshippers were wounded on Tuesday, but Palestinian-Israeli news website Arab48 put the number at 34, citing the Palestinian Red Crescent.

A hospital official said one man had suffered a serious head wound from a rubber bullet fired from close range. A senior Muslim cleric was also hurt, witnesses said.

Tensions have increased around al-Aqsa since three Palestinian gunmen fatally shot two Israeli policemen outside the complex on Friday in one of the most serious attacks in the area in years.

The assailants were killed by security forces and Israeli authorities briefly closed the compound.

When it was reopened on Sunday, metal detectors had been installed, to the anger of Muslim religious authorities. Israeli officials said they were a permanent measure but many worshippers refused to go through them and preferred to pray outside the compound.

Palestinian religious authorities considered the move a declaration of sovereignty by Israel over the Muslim holy site.  

On Tuesday night, more than 3,000 worshippers, including Palestinian-Israeli lawmakers gathered to pray outside the mosque, according to photographer Mahfouz Abu Turk.

Palestinians have been praying outside Al-Aqsa to protest Israeli metal detectors installed around the mosque (MEE/Mahfouz Abu Turk)
Abu Turk told Middle East Eye that worshippers were attacked by Israeli forces who fired rubber bullets and stun grenades on them as soon as the prayer was over. He said security forces also beat the protesters with batons.

He said some 350 security officers were involved in the crackdown.

Sheikh Ekrima Sabri, the grand mufti of Jerusalem who was injured on Tuesday, said Palestinians will not accept for Israelis to stop Palestinians from praying in al-Aqsa while allowing settlers to continue their violations.

"We will continue praying around the al-Aqsa until they remove the electronic metal detectors," he said.

Israeli police spokeswoman Luba Samri said that after prayers ended, some of the dozens of worshippers had started throwing rocks and bottles at police officers, and dispersal means were used. Two officers were lightly hurt, she said.

Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said police who regularly patrol Jerusalem's Old City use stun grenades in clashes, but are not routinely armed with rubber bullets. 

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