Israeli authorities have intensified security measures around the Damascus Gate, one of the main entrances to the Old City of Jerusalem, building a watchtower and checkpoint there ahead of the Holy Month of Ramadan.
Jerusalemite engineer, Bassam Al-Hallaq, said Israel’s targeting of the Damascus Gate has serious implications:
“They want to change the Arab and Islamic features of the Damascus Gate through security procedures like building watchtowers, installing security cameras, changing traffic routes and preventing Jerusalemites from sitting in the gate’s squares or using it as venue to celebrate national or religious events under the pretext of protecting Israeli soldiers.”
Tourist guide Khadr Najib explained that the Damascus Gate has one of the oldest markets in the city of Jerusalem and Israel has been trying since 1967 to impose control over it:
“It dates back to the Roman era. It is also the main entrance for Muslims and Christians to [access] their Holy places. Muslims pass through the gate to the Al-Aqsa Mosque and Christians use it to reach the Church of the Holy Sepulchre,” he said.
Najib added that the Jerusalem Municipality uses the Damascus Gate area during Jewish Holidays to display biblical films using the wall surrounding the gate as a large display screen, but if a Jerusalemites attempted to do a similar thing, the Israeli police and army would intervene and stop the event.
Jerusalemite trader Ahmed Dandis describes the Damascus Gate as one of the most beautiful sections of the old town due to its architecture, Islamic and Arab heritage:
“Archaeologists know the importance of this gate therefore this section is targeted during Jewish holidays throughout the year to organise concerts and Talmudic rallies which are often accompanied by provocations to us traders and citizens living in the Old City.”