Violence rocked the capital on Friday after midday prayers near the Temple Mount ended in riots and the deaths of three Palestinians as thousands took to the streets to protest the installation of metal detectors at entrances to the site in Jerusalem’s Old City.
The Palestinian Authority Health Ministry said Muhammad Sharaf, 17, and Muhammad Hassan Abu Ghannam, age unknown, died of gunshot wounds in two neighborhoods of east Jerusalem somewhat distant from the epicenter of tension in the walled Old City.
It later reported a third Palestinian fatality, Muhammad Lafi, 18. The men were all buried before autopsies or ballistic examinations could be carried out, so Israel was not able to immediately determine who fired in the three incidents.
According to Palestinian medical sources, Sharef was shot in the neck in the southeastern Jerusalem neighborhood of Ras el-Amud and reportedly died of his wounds shortly thereafter. The Palestinian reports claimed the gunfire came from a nearby Jewish neighborhood on the Mount of Olives called Ma’aleh Hazeitim.
Palestinian sources said Abu Ghannam was shot in A-Tur, also on the Mount of Olives, and died of his wounds in the neighborhood’s Makassed Hospital.
The Palestinian Ma’an News Agency reported that the bodies of the Palestinians were quickly buried on Friday afternoon, out of concern that Israeli authorities would seize them. Ma’an also reported that Israeli forces raided Makassed Hospital, although the purpose of the raid has not yet been established.
The violence erupted after worshipers refused to enter the Temple Mount, preferring to pray outside, in some cases filling the narrow alleyways of the Old City’s Muslim Quarter.
“We reject Israeli restrictions at the Aksa Mosque,” said Jerusalem’s senior Muslim cleric, Grand Mufti Muhammad Hussein.
Muslim leaders and Palestinian political factions had urged the faithful to gather for a “day of rage” against the new security policies, which they see as changing delicate agreements that have governed the holy site for decades.
“Today, we are acting to bring al-Aksa Mosque and Jerusalem back into the embrace of the Arab world,” Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh said during his weekly sermon in the Gaza Strip.
“We shall not enter the Temple Mount through metal detectors.”
Police mobilized extra units and erected barriers to carry out checks at entrances to the Old City. Access to the Mount was permitted to men over 50, but open to women of all ages. Roadblocks were in place on approach roads to Jerusalem to stop buses carrying Israeli Muslims to the site.
Israeli police said disturbances in the Ras el-Amud, A-Tur and Wadi Joz neighborhoods resulted in the injury of four police officers.
Clashes also broke out at the Kalandiya checkpoint between Jerusalem and Ramallah, in Hebron and at Rachel’s Tomb on the northern outskirts of Bethlehem.
According to the Palestinian Red Crescent, almost 200 Palestinians were wounded in the clashes.
Seventeen Palestinians were arrested by the IDF and the Border Police in the West Bank on Friday for throwing firebombs and stones at troops. In addition, nine peace activists were arrested at the Nitzanei Shalom crossing in the West Bank.
“The government’s brutal actions at al-Aksa Mosque, changing the status quo by placing metal detectors, will necessarily lead to a third intifada, that already began today,” Joint List MK Taleb Abu Arar said on Friday afternoon. “Those who initiated the violence and killed three Palestinians were the Israeli police,” he said.
MK Ahmad Tibi, also of the Joint List, said responsibility for the clashes and those who died lies with the government and its head, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
“Netanyahu said that in Mecca there are metal detectors.
But Mecca is not under occupation, al-Quds [Jerusalem] is,” Tibi said.
MKs who attended the protests included Haneen Zoabi, Jamal Zahalka and Osama Sa’adi, all from the Joint List.
Protests were relatively limited to the Jerusalem area and West Bank as security forces spread out in large numbers in anticipation of widespread rioting.
Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein posted on Twitter two screenshots from videos by Arab MKs from Friday and wrote: “This is a shame! It is a shame that the precious time of our security forces is being wasted.”