Palestinians protest at al Aksa Mosque.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Palestinians expressed their anger outside Damascus Gate on Sunday afternoon,
claiming it was “impossible” for any man under the age of 50 to go through it to
enter the mosque.
Violent clashes broke out Saturday afternoon in east
Jerusalem between over 100 Palestinians and police following what authorities
described as an “illegal march” from Damascus Gate to al-Aksa Mosque, resulting
in the use of stun grenades to disperse the crowd.
According to several
Palestinians who witnessed the confrontation, the rioting was a response to
police enforcing a minimum age limit of 50 for all men who attempted to pass
though the gate to pray.
“Saturday they were going to pray and [the
police] let in the old people but not young people because they think they’ll
make problems,” said a middle-aged Palestinian man who identified himself as
“When they didn’t let the young people in, they started to throw
things,” he continued.
“There’s no peace in this country between Arabs
and Jews because [the police] hit us without reason when people start marching –
even if it’s peaceful.
They don’t respect human beings except the
The police told a different story about what took place on
“After a sporadic and illegal march at Damascus Gate of up to
120 people attempting to go to the mosque, a security assessment was made that
there was a threat to the public order,” said police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld
“This resulted in Palestinian rioting, including the throwing
of rocks, bottles and other objects at officers,” Rosenfeld said.
Rosenfeld acknowledged that the age limit is enforced when police investigations
determine that violence may ensue, he maintained that the riot was the result of
an illegal demonstration and nothing else.
“This conflict had nothing to
do with age enforcement,” he said. “It was the result of a sporadic march made
without prior coordination with police. Age limits are selectively enforced if
and when police assess there is trouble.”
Still, Salah Kahmmis, 38, said
police have prevented him from praying at al-Aksa Mosque for the past two months
because of his age, and insisted that Saturday’s clash was due to age
“[The police] look at us and if you own a shop [in the Old
City] or are 50 or [older] you get in, if not, you don’t,” he said. “This is the
democracy of Israel. All the Muslims come to pray here and they keep us
“Tourists and Jews have no problem, but for Palestinians [under
50] it’s forbidden,” Kahmmis said.
While no arrests were made during the
riot, Rosenfeld said two Palestinians directly involved in the clashes were
subsequently apprehended Saturday evening.
The riot came three days after
25 Palestinians were arrested there on “Nakba Day,” on which Palestinians mourn
the establishment of the State of Israel, which this year coincided with