Tensions have continued to flare in the State of Israel and the Gaza strip after two persons were killed in clashes between Palestinian Protesters and Israeli troops.
Troops also entered Jerusalem’s al-Aqsa mosque, the third-holiest shrine in Islam, as well as a place of significance to Jews and Christians in pursuit of youths who had pelted Israeli soldiers and police with rocks and fireworks during clashes outside the Mosque.
Medics in Gaza also confirmed the death of two people by gunfire from Israeli troops during the weekly border protests that have been going on for weeks now; Palestinians in Gaza have been protesting Israel’s blockade of the territory causing dire living conditions for the population.
Medics confirmed that a man and a 14-year-old boy were killed and dozens of others wounded by army fire. This increases the death toll since demonstrations started in March to 154. The Palestinians are demanding access to lands lost during the founding of the State of Israel in 1948.
The Israeli military said troops opened fire to hold off thousands of Palestinians, some of whom threw rocks and rolled burning tyres at the border fence in attempts to sabotage it. Israel defends its brutal tactics in confronting the protests saying they are needed to prevent armed infiltrations. Israel also accuses Gaza’s Islamist Hamas rulers of encouraging the disturbances to distract Palestinians from their governance problems under an Israeli-Egyptian blockade a charge which Hamas denies.
Al-Aqsa is a holy site of the three Abrahamic religions of Islam, Judaism and Christianity and is often a flashpoint of Palestinian clashes with Israel since Jerusalem was captured by the State of Israel in the Arab/Israeli war. The Palestinians often get emotional when Jews enter the mosque parts of the mosque and often use it as a gathering point for agitation against Israel.
A spokesperson for the Israeli police confirmed that troopers were sent into al-Aqsa to arrest suspects who had barricaded themselves within the mosque after running confrontations in the surrounding compound; the suspects who wore masks had launched firecrackers from handheld canisters at Israeli troops.
Several eyewitnesses including the older male worshippers said there was no immediate word of violence in the mosque, as they had been allowed to exit after being searched. They however said they later saw 20 younger men detained by police but mosque prayers later resumed. Police say 24 people were arrested while four of its officers were injured in the clashes. Muslim authorities also said dozens of people were hurt by Israeli police stun grenades.
Reacting to the incident, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’s said in a statement released by his office, “The continued Israeli attacks against occupied Jerusalem will increase tensions and will drag the region into a religious war that we have long warned against,”
The four months of Gaza tensions have also resulted in cross-border shelling as well as gunfire exchange. An Israeli soldier was killed and another injured last week by Hamas snipers while seven Hamas gunmen were also killed in air strikes.
Israel has lost tracts of farmland and forests to fires set by kites and helium balloons, laden with incendiary material and flown over from Gaza and it responded by preventing the entry of non-essential commercial goods to Gaza.