Israeli police have barred Palestinians protesting in defence of the al-Aqsa mosque compound from gaining access to Jerusalem’s Old City.
Friday’s increased restrictions on the mosque compound in occupied East Jerusalem follow a series of clashes that started late last month.
Several hundred Palestinians, denied entry to the mosque, performed Friday prayers just outside the gates of the Old City as the heavily armed Israeli police deployed extra troops.
Palestinian leaders called on Friday for a one-day strike, as some suggested that the Israeli actions could spark a third uprising, or intifada, against the occupation.
Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president who heads the Fatah movement, called the strike “to peacefully protest”.
The protest also sought to “proclaim the attachment of the Palestinian people to their holy places and to Jerusalem as the eternal capital of the independent Palestinian state”.
Fatah accused Israeli forces of allowing rightwing Jewish extremists to enter the mosque compound while denying access to Muslims.
Security forces set up checkpoints around and within the Old City and were seen turning back Palestinians who do not live or work there.
But they were allowing in tourists and Jews wanting to pray at the Western Wall – also known as the Wailing Wall – just below the mosque compound.
Most shops in the Old City shut down, though some shop-owners complained about the strike.
“We need to strengthen our presence in Jerusalem, not weaken it,” said Ramdan Abu Sbeeh, 32, a sweets-seller who defied the strike call.
A senior police official told public radio: “We have deployed thousands of people in Jerusalem and in the north of Israel following incitation by extremists.”
Israeli police have accused the Islamic Movement of inciting tension and this week briefly detained its leader, Sheikh Raed Salah, whom they said had made “inflammatory statements”.
Salah, who previously spent two years in Israeli prison, has repeatedly called in recent days for Muslims to “defend” Al-Aqsa against Israel.
Source: Al Jazeera