Sun, Feb 26, 2012 - Page 6 News List

Palestinian dies in fighting over Old Jerusalem clashes

STONE’S THROW AWAY:Clashes at the al-Aqsa site in the Old City have set off protests of solidarity in East Jerusalem and adjacent towns in the West Bank


Palestinians gather as Israeli police appear to stand guard at the entrance to the Dome of the Rock at the al-Aqsa mosque compound in Jerusalem’s Old City on Friday.

Photo: AFP

A Palestinian wounded by Israeli army gunfire on the outskirts of Jerusalem died in hospital on Friday night after a day of clashes in and around the holy city, medics said.

Ramallah hospital emergency room staff said that Tareq Arumi, 23, was hit in a clash with troops during the afternoon in protests in the West Bank neighborhood of al-Ram, adjacent to Israeli-annexed East Jerusalem.

Palestinians said that the al-Ram unrest broke out as stone-throwers battled Israeli police at the flashpoint al-Aqsa mosque compound in Jerusalem’s Old City and neighboring districts.

The army said that first reports indicated that a soldier opened fire with live ammunition, hitting Arumi in the shoulder.

“An initial investigation suggests that a Palestinian man fired fireworks at soldiers from several meters away, putting the soldiers’ lives in danger,” a spokesman said. “The soldier responded by firing, injuring the Palestinian in his shoulder.”

At al-Aqsa, there were clashes between riot police and “hundreds” of Palestinian stone-throwers, police said.

Police said they used stun grenades to disperse the demonstrators and that four people had been arrested and 11 officers were “lightly injured from stones.”

It was not immediately clear what set off the confrontation at the Jerusalem shrine sacred to both Jews and Muslims. However, there have been heightened tensions in recent days, with rumors circulating among Palestinian activists that far-right Israelis are trying to gain entry to Muslim-controlled areas at the site. The rumors were false, according to Israeli police.

Violence has repeatedly erupted in the past at the al-Aqsa Mosque compound, which sits atop the remains of the two biblical Jewish temples. It is the most sacred site in Judaism and is Islam’s third-holiest site.

The shrine looms large in the rival narratives of Israelis and Palestinians and any perceived attempt to change the delicate division of control there quickly sets off protests.

Friday’s clashes in Jerusalem began after Muslim noon prayers. Hundreds of worshipers emerging from the two mosques in the walled compound staged a demonstration protesting the rumored plans by far right activists to enter the shrine.

Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said hundreds of worshipers threw rocks at police, who fired stun grenades to disperse the crowd. Najeh Bkeirat, a Muslim official at the scene, said demonstrators began throwing stones after police tried to stop their march.

They said that another Palestinian was arrested in the nearby East Jerusalem neighborhood of Issawiya for stone-throwing at police there.

In the Gaza town of Khan Younis, thousands of Palestinians also marched in support of Palestinian sovereignty in Jerusalem, over which Israel claims sole dominion, while the Palestinians claim the mainly Arab east for the capital of a Palestinian state.

Witnesses said police had also fired tear gas, forcing a number of women to run for cover inside the adjacent Dome of the Rock.

“We were praying when they started shooting tear gas towards us,” 58-year-old Umm Mohammad said by telephone from inside the Dome of the Rock.

“At first, they were shooting at the al-Aqsa mosque, but we hid in the Dome of the Rock and now they have started firing tear gas and sound bombs towards the gates,” she said.

“Women were terrified and screaming at first, but we got over it and started shouting Allahu akbar [‘God is great’],” she said.

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