Israeli police storm al-Aqsa Mosque

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ISRAELI police stormed the al-Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem on Sunday morning, right after worshippers at the site were protesting against the provocative visit of a group of Jewish settlers to the Islamic holy site.

Israeli police reportedly attacked with teargas and toxic gas canisters the protesting worshippers as well as assaulted them with clubs. The mosque’s director, Omar al-Kiswani, was reportedly hit by an Israeli policeman’s club in the head and injured.

Witnesses said special police forces chased the worshippers until the latter barricaded in the southern building of the mosque, where the police mounted the rooftop of the building and smashed historical window glasses in order to photograph the worshippers inside the building. The police also assaulted the worshippers with teargas canisters, causing multiple cases of suffocation among them.

Meanwhile, Israeli police also banned the entry of Muslim worshippers below the age of 30 to the holy site. The Al-Aqsa Mosque complex is sacred to Muslims and is seen by them as the world’s third holiest site. Israel occupied the West Bank and East Jerusalem – in which Al-Aqsa is located – during the 1967 Arab-Israeli War. In a move never recognised by the international community, Israel annexed the entire city in 1980, claiming it as its ‘eternal and undivided’ capital.

• The intensified Israeli revenge measures in the city of Jerusalem in response to the alleged stab attack committed by three Palestinians hit the front pages of the three Palestinian Arabic dailies on Sunday. Al-Quds, al-Ayyam and al-Hayat al-Jadida reported that Israeli police have been intensifying revenge actions in the city of Jerusalem in response to the act of the three young Palestinians from the village of Deir Abu Mash’al, near the city of Ramallah, the occupied West Bank, who were involved in an alleged attack in Jerusalem on Friday.

Al-Quds said that Netanyahu threatens more intensified measures in Jerusalem, where streets and gates were closed and West Bank residents were moved back to the West Bank. Al-Ayyam said that Israeli forces closed streets in Jerusalem, while hundreds of West Bank citizens were moved to Israeli checkpoints in the city.

Al-Hayat al-Jadida reported three injuries in the surrounded village of Deir Abu Mash’al, hometown of the three Palestinians who were shot dead after the alleged stab attack, and that Israeli police turned the Damascus Gate in Jerusalem into a closed military area. The three dailies reported the tense situation in the village of Deir Abu Mash’al, which has been raided and surrounded by Israeli forces since Friday.

Al-Ayyam said that Israeli forces raided the village as clashes with its residents broke out. Al-Quds reported that Palestinians were injured during the clashes. A statement by member of Palestine Liberation Organisation’s (PLO) Executive Committee Ahmad Majdalani was reported in al-Quds and al-Ayyam. He said that the US administration hasn’t put out a plan towards peace negotiations between the Palestinians and Israelis. Al-Quds said that Israel and Saudi Arabia are negotiating economic ties, according to the Times newspaper.

• Human rights organisation Amnesty International has reiterated its condemnation of the Israeli practice of detaining Palestinians without charge or trial, based on undisclosed evidence, after the administrative detention sentences of three high-profile prisoners were recently renewed.

Over the past two weeks, Israeli authorities extended the remand of university professor and intellectual Ahmad Qatamish, Palestinian circus performer Muhammad Abu Sakha, as well as Palestinian activist and journalist Hassan Safadi.

Amnesty International released a statement last Friday denouncing the three-month administrative detention order issued against 67-year-old Qatamish, a ‘prisoner of conscience,’ on June 13, after being held without charge or trial in Ofer prison since May 14.

The statement described Qatamish as an ‘outspoken critic of both Israeli and Palestinian authorities and the Oslo accords’ who has ‘called for a fundamental change in the political landscape and strategy of Palestinians, an end to the divisions between Hamas and the Palestinian authorities in the West Bank, and has highlighted the Palestinian population’s discontent with their leadership.

‘Most recently, he has spoken out strongly in support of the mass Palestinian prisoner hunger strike,’ the group said, adding that ‘Amnesty International believes that he has been detained solely due to his non-violent political activities and writing and to deter activism by other Palestinians.’

Qatamish has spent more than eight years under separate stints of administrative detention, and was most recently released in December 2013. His wife told Amnesty International that as a result of his mistreatment and medical neglect in Israeli prisons, he sustained damages to his inner ear affecting his balance and has had recurring episodes of fainting and blackouts.

Amnesty International called on Israeli authorities ‘to ensure Ahmad Qatamish has prompt access to adequate healthcare and medical treatment, pending his release.’ In a statement last Thursday, Amnesty also highlighted Safadi’s case, after his administrative detention was renewed for six additional months on June 11, after being held in Ktziot prison without charge following his detention on May 1, 2016.

The statement cited an attorney from Addameer as saying that, according to the court’s decision, it was the last time Safadi’s sentence would be renewed ‘unless there is new and important evidence against him.’

In the midst of his administrative detention, on Oct. 27, 2016, Safadi pled guilty to the charge of visiting an ‘enemy’ country, as he was initially detained at the Allenby Bridge border crossing and interrogated for 40 days upon his return from a conference on justice and accountability in Lebanon.

After pleading guilty, he was sentenced the same day to three months and one day in prison, but instead of being released afterwards, he was forced to remain in custody under a new administrative detention order.

Amnesty International called on Israel authorities to ‘end their long-standing attacks on Palestinian human rights defenders and halt the harassment and intimidation of all human rights defenders and to ensure a prompt, impartial investigation into (Safadi’s) allegations of torture and other ill-treatment.’

Meanwhile, Abu Sakha – whose administrative detention has previously been denounced by Amnesty International – saw his sentence renewed for three additional months on Friday, when 26 other Palestinians were sentenced with administrative detention. Amnesty International said in December that it feared that Israeli authorities ‘are using administrative detention as a method of punishing Muhammad Faisal Abu Sakha without prosecuting him, which would amount to arbitrary detention.’

Abu Sakha has received global widespread support from artists, circus groups, human rights advocates, and Palestine organisers. While Israeli authorities claim the withholding of evidence during administrative detention, which allows detention for three- to six-month renewable intervals, is essential for state security concerns, rights groups have instead claimed that the policy allows Israeli authorities to hold Palestinians for an indefinite period of time without showing any evidence that could justify their detentions.

According to prisoners’ rights group Addameer, 6,200 Palestinians were detained by Israel as of May, 490 of whom were held in administrative detention.