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Deadly West Bank attack after day of clashes in Jerusalem

Following skirmishes between Palestinians and Israeli police at Jerusalem’s flashpoint Al-Aqsa mosque on Friday, a Palestinian man and an Israeli guard were slain in separate West Bank events.

The army reported the guard was attacked at the Ariel settlement’s gate and that they were following “terrorists.”

The Islamist Hamas movement lauded the assassination as a “heroic operation,” with spokesman Hazem Qassem declaring it a retaliation for “assaults on Al-Aqsa,” the shrine that has been a focal point for weeks of turmoil.

According to the Palestinian Red Crescent, 42 people were injured at the shrine, which is revered by both Muslims and Jews.

Meanwhile, Israeli forces killed a Palestinian man overnight Friday in the north of the occupied West Bank, according to the Palestinian health ministry.

The man, in his 20s, was shot in the chest during an Israeli army operation in the town of Azzun, the ministry said in a statement.

– Stones and fireworks –
Israeli police released footage that showed young men on the Al-Aqsa compound hurling stones and fireworks in Friday’s early hours. Officers entered the site at dawn.

According to a police statement, they entered to apprehend “rioters and lawbreakers,” some of whom were attempting to throw stones at the Western Wall, a sacred Jewish shrine beneath Al-Aqsa.

Officers employed “riot dispersal methods” to quell the disorder, and two persons were arrested, one for throwing stones and the other for “inciting the mob,” according to police.

Israeli police deployed rubber-coated bullets, according to an AFP journalist, and tear gas, according to a witness.

Following the turmoil surrounding morning prayers, an uncomfortable calm had been restored inside the compound, but tensions remained high.

In the early afternoon, a crowd of Muslim worshippers gathered at Al-Aqsa. Some people waved Palestinian flags and the colors of the Gaza Strip-based Hamas militant group, an AFP journalist said.

– Tensions –
Over the past two weeks, nearly 300 Palestinians have been hurt in clashes at the Al-Aqsa compound, Islam’s third-holiest site. It is also Judaism’s holiest place, known to Jews as the Temple Mount.

The site is in east Jerusalem, which Israel took in the 1967 Six-Day War and then annexed in a move that was largely ignored by the rest of the world.

During Ramadan, Israel’s raids into the compound drew global condemnation and fears of escalating long-standing Israeli-Palestinian tensions in Jerusalem.

Israel, on the other hand, claims it was forced to intervene against operatives from the Islamist organizations Hamas and Islamic Jihad. The militants are said to be threatening Muslim pilgrims at Al-Aqsa and Jews praying at the Western Wall, according to the report.

In an apparent attempt to defuse tensions, Israel’s Foreign Minister Yair Lapid stated that the government is committed to maintaining the status quo at the site, implying that only Muslims are permitted to pray there.

Jews are allowed to visit the Temple Mount.

Muslim leaders have, however, been angered by a recent uptick in such visits. Some voiced fears that Israel was seeking to divide the compound and create a space where Jews may worship. Lapid told journalists that no such plan exists.

– ‘Quds Day’ –
The fresh unrest comes as the end of Ramadan nears early next week.

East Jerusalem, which Israel has annexed, is a hotbed of violence. Jerusalem has sparked fears of a new military battle, akin to the 11-day war between Israel and Hamas last year, which was sparked in part by rioting at Al-Aqsa.

There has been isolated rocket fire from Gaza towards Israel and Israeli retaliation since early last week, but no injuries have been recorded on either side.

Late Thursday, Hamas and Islamic Jihad leaders attended a gathering in Gaza, pledging to “protect” Jerusalem, especially Al-Aqsa.

Thousands of Iranians came to the streets across the Islamic republic on Friday for Quds (Jerusalem) Day, an annual show of pro-Palestinian marches. According to the official channel IRIB, flag-waving demonstrators screamed “Death to America” and “Death to Israel.”

Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei made live televised remarks in support of Palestinians and slammed those in the West backing Ukraine against Russia’s invasion.

“They are making so much noise about the situation in Ukraine… (and) are keeping totally silent about the crimes in Palestine,” he said.

Following that, Hamas issued a statement thanking Iran for “standing with Jerusalem and the blessed Al-Aqsa mosque, as well as for aiding our resistant nation in whatever way.”

The Al-Aqsa tensions have occurred against a backdrop of violence in Israel and the occupied West Bank since March 22.

In four different attacks inside Israel, twelve Israelis, including an Arab-Israeli police officer, and two Ukrainians were killed. Palestinians carried out two of the deadly strikes in the Tel Aviv area.

During the same time period, 27 Palestinians and three Israeli Arabs died, including attackers and those slain by Israeli security forces in West Bank operations.

Courtesy Bol News

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