Israeli police took the unprecedented step of preventing Palestinian residents of Jerusalem from entering the walled Old City on Sunday after at least two Israelis and one Palestinian were killed in Jerusalem.
The clampdown followed two stabbing attacks in Jerusalem's Old City: The first on Saturday night killing two Israeli men and injuring two others, and the second injuring a 15-year-old boy early Sunday. In both cases, police said they shot dead the alleged Palestinian attackers.
Tensions have soared over access to a sensitive holy site within the Old City that is sacred to Jews and Muslims. Israeli police and Palestinian demonstrators have clashed repeatedly at the hilltop compound in recent weeks, with the unrest spreading to the West Bank, where clashes erupted Sunday during an Israeli arrest raid.
Israeli police said they are preventing Palestinian residents of east Jerusalem from entering the Old City for two days during a Jewish holiday to prevent violence. Palestinians who live, work and study within the Old City, as well as Israelis and tourists, will be allowed in. Some 300,000 Palestinians live in Jerusalem, making up about a third of the city's population. They live in the predominantly Arab eastern district and have residency status in the city, but do not hold Israeli citizenship. They are usually free to enter the Old City in east Jerusalem, where major Muslim, Christian and Jewish holy sites are located. Worship at the sensitive Al-Aqsa mosque compound will be restricted to Old City residents and Arab Israelis, and limited to men aged 50 and above. There will be no age restrictions on women. They will be allowed to enter through one specific gate.
Meanwhile, clashes with Israeli security forces and Jewish settlers have left 77 Palestinians wounded over the past 24 hours, the Palestinian Red Crescent said yesterday. The toll included 18 wounded from live rounds and 59 from rubber bullets, Red Crescent spokeswoman Errab Foqaha said. Another 139 have been treated for tear gas inhalation and six for injuries sustained in beatings by soldiers or settlers, she said.
The Palestinian government denounced "Israeli escalation" yesterday after the ban from the Jewish state. "The Palestinian government denounces the Israeli escalation policy by Israeli occupation authorities against our people in occupied Jerusalem and the West Bank," it said in a statement after the imposition of the two-day ban. Rami Saleh, a director of the Jerusalem Center for Legal Aid and Human Rights, said the restrictions on the Old City "impact us in a very, very bad way." "They are restricting Palestinians from visiting our own city. The Old City is the center of Jerusalem, the center of Palestine itself. It is the commercial center for Palestinians. It will have too many commercial, economic impacts," he said.
The Palestinian district of East Jerusalem was captured by Israel during the 1967 six-day war and since then Israel has tried to expand its influence over the neighborhood by allowing Jewish settlers to reside in the disputed area. Israeli aggression does not appear only in Jerusalem but also in the Gaza Strip.
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