Israel arrests 39 after clashes in Jerusalem and West Bank
Israeli police said Sunday they had arrested 39 Palestinians in the West Bank and east Jerusalem after days of protest and clashes over the flashpoint Al-Aqsa mosque compound.
Palestinians clashed Friday with Israeli security forces in Jerusalem and several cities in the occupied West Bank, in a “day of rage” to protest an increase in Jewish visitors to Islam’s third-holiest site.
Jews visited the site in Jerusalem’s Old City for the start of the Jewish New Year last Sunday, sparking days of clashes between Muslims and Israeli police on and near the plaza that houses the famous golden Dome of the Rock shrine and Al-Aqsa mosque.
The site is also the most sacred in Judaism, as it is believed to be the location of its first and second temples.
Police said they had arrested 12 Palestinians in the West Bank and 27 in annexed east Jerusalem over the previous two days for “disturbing the peace”, “taking part in riots” and “throwing stones and Molotov cocktails”.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday vowed “war” on stone-throwers with tougher penalties and new rules for security forces on when to open fire.
On Sunday, calm had returned to the Al-Aqsa compound, with 350 tourists and 150 Jews visiting the site.
A controversy has meanwhile been growing over the treatment by Palestinian police of protesters in the 17 percent of the West Bank that they control, after a video was uploaded showing police beating a protester on Friday in Bethlehem.
The video shows half a dozen policemen beating and kicking a young man on the ground.
The Palestinian government said Friday it would open an investigation into the incident, with prime minister Rami Hamdallah calling it “an unacceptable act” and promising to “hold its perpetrators accountable”.
A government source who spoke on condition of anonymity said that the video was “very damaging to the Palestinian Authority”.
The authority is already under fire from the Islamist opposition and some in the Palestinian public for not having taken any measures against Israel in response to the recent increase in Jewish visitors to the Al-Aqsa site and Israeli police entering the compound.