Al-Aqsa Mosque violence leaves 3 Palestinians, 2 Israeli cops dead

Israeli security forces frisk a Palestinian youth in Jerusalem’s Old City on Friday following the attack. (AFP)
Updated 15 July 2017
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Al-Aqsa Mosque violence leaves 3 Palestinians, 2 Israeli cops dead

AMMAN: A Friday morning exchange of fire in and around Jerusalem’s Haram Al-Sharif has escalated tensions in the Old City.
The exchange of fire at 7 a.m. left three Palestinian citizens of Israel and two Israeli border policemen dead, and led to Israeli authorities barring Muslim Friday prayers for the first time since 1969.
Since the exchange, the city gates have been closed and no one is allowed in or out, including Christian clergy and residents of the Old City.
According to Israeli officials, three Palestinian-Israelis from the northern town of Um Al-Fahm opened fire at security guards, injuring three, two of whom later died.
The guards were from the minority Druze population. Unlike Palestinian Muslims and Christians, Druze are conscripted, as are Israeli Jews.
Khalil Assali, publisher of the akhbarelbalad.net website, which specializes in East Jerusalem issues, told Arab News that the situation there has been deteriorating for some time due to settlers and right-wing activists under the watch of Israeli police.
“They’re becoming more and more rowdy and provocative, and in recent days they were even praying on the steps of Al-Aqsa,” said Assali, who lost his father in the 1967 war.
Ismael Habash, the chief Islamic judge in the Palestinian government and a close confidante of President Mahmoud Abbas, said Israel’s barring of prayers at Islam’s third-holiest site is pushing the entire region into a religious war.
Speaking on Palestine TV, Habash said: “We oppose any kind of religious war. Whatever happened shouldn’t be used as an excuse to prevent people from access to and worshipping in their holy site.”
Ofer Salzberg, a senior analyst with the Brussels-based International Crisis Group, told Arab News that the situation in Al-Aqsa has been deteriorating for the past few months.
“Temple Mount activists have become more emboldened, and the police attitude toward the Jewish activists has become more cooperative and generous,” he said.
Salzberg added that Jewish activists have been allowed in the mosque compound in larger numbers.
“Perhaps the most obvious violation occurred on June 29, when the chief of the Jerusalem district police, Yoram Halevi, joined 150 activists in the mosque area,” he said.
“The police chief took photos with the activists and allowed a cohen (Jewish priest) to make a benediction to him and to the others.”
Salzberg said this was filmed and appeared in Palestinian media, and signals that Israeli police are not neutral.
“Israel and the Jerusalem police, in particular, are complicit in violating the ban on non-Muslim worship on the holy esplanade,” he added.
Salzberg said he believes Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “won’t allow things to get worse because of Israeli relations with Jordan’s King Abdallah and the delicate cease-fire in southern Syria.”
Jordanian government spokesman Mohammed Momani called for the “right of Muslims to pray freely and without any obstruction.”


Libyan commander marching on capital dismisses negotiations

Updated 20 June 2019
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Libyan commander marching on capital dismisses negotiations

  • Khalifa Haftar vows that his fighters will get rid of ‘terrorist militias’

CAIRO: A Libyan commander, whose forces are fighting to take the country’s capital of Tripoli from militias allied with a UN-backed government based there, has dismissed an initiative by its prime minister for negotiations to end the crisis.

Instead, Khalifa Haftar vowed in comments to a news website on Wednesday that his fighters would press on with the weeks-long offensive until Tripoli is rid of what he described as “terrorist militias.”

“Our military operations will not stop” until Tripoli is taken, Haftar told almarsad.co.

“The situation is excellent and I call on the Libyans to ignore rumors about our withdrawal,” Haftar said in interviews with Libyan news websites The Address and The Observer published overnight Wednesday to Thursday.

The offensive to seize the capital “will not stop before all its objectives are reached,” he said.

The campaign by Haftar’s Liberation National Army has raised fears of another bout of violence after the 2011 uprising that toppled and killed longtime ruler Muammar Qaddafi. Since then, the country has sunk into chaos, with rival administrations in the east and the west, and an array of forces and militias allied with either side.

On Monday, the World Health Organization reported the latest casualty tolls for the fighting in and around Tripoli, saying 691 people have been killed so far, including 41 civilians, and 4,012 wounded, 135 of them civilians.

The head of the Tripoli-based government, Prime Minister Fayez Al-Sarraj, told a news conference on Sunday he is proposing a “Libyan forum,” aimed at finding a peaceful solution to the conflict.

The talks would draw up a roadmap for parliamentary and presidential elections to be held before the end of 2019, Al-Sarraj said. 

In his remarks to the news website, Haftar dismissed Al-Sarraj’s initiative and criticized him as an ineffective leader.

“Initiatives have no meaning unless they are brave and carry clear clauses that address the causes of the crisis and its very roots,” Haftar said.

Haftar has presented himself as someone able to restore stability. In recent years, his campaign against militants across Libya won him growing international support from world leaders who say they are concerned the North African country has turned into a haven for armed groups, and a major conduit for migrants bound for Europe.