[Police fire tear gas at Al-Aqsa mosque (image from Ma'an)]
By Celine Hagbard
IMEMC: 110 Palestinians, including a number of elderly men and women, were treated for injuries after Israeli troops attacked worshipers at the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem. The wounded include two Directors of the Board for Islamic Endowments, several journalists, and paramedics who arrived on the scene to treat the wounded.
The Friday noon prayer was underway when Israeli forces raided the Mosque compound, firing rubber-coated steel bullets, stun grenades and tear gas. Palestinian youth responded by throwing stones. Israeli troops then attempted to force all of the worshipers out of the Mosque compound.
Al-Aqsa mosque is considered the third holiest site in Islam. Access to the Muslim holy site is controlled by Israeli soldiers, who frequently close off access to the mosque for the thousands of Muslim worshipers who come every Friday to attend the weekly midday prayers.
For the past three weeks, Israeli troops have prevented anyone under age fifty from attending prayer services at al-Aqsa mosque – this coincides with three of the four Fridays in Ramadan, an important month in Muslim holy year marked by prayers, fasting and nighttime gatherings.
For the past three Fridays, worshipers excluded from the mosque have held Friday prayer services on the street outside the mosque. This week, the worshipers were attacked by police.
Among the Palestinians injured in the attack were the Director of the al-Aqsa Foundation, which oversees the mosque, Omar al-Kiswani, who was shot with a rubber-coated steel bullet in the foot, and Adnan al-Husseini, the Jerusalem Minister for the Palestinian Authority, who was shot with a rubber-coated steel bullet in the leg.
In addition, two Board Members for the al-Aqsa Foundation, Abdulatheem Salhab and Fayez an-Obaidi, were both shot with rubber-coated steel bullets in the chest.
110 Palestinians were treated at al-Aqsa clinic on site, and around 15 were transferred to local hospitals. Injuries included cuts, bruises, fractures and concussions. One Palestinian man suffered from bruised ribs and a punctured lung from being hit at close range, in the chest, by one of the so-called ‘non-lethal’ bullets.
Several elderly Palestinians required hospitalization, including an elderly man who was hit with a concussion grenade in the forehead, and one who was hit with shrapnel from a concussion grenade in his chest.
A spokesperson for the Israeli police said that police fired at “masked Arab rioters who were throwing stones at the police”, but eyewitnesses contest that account of events.