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Tension, arrests as Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa Mosque reopens after lockdown

Tension, arrests as Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa Mosque reopens after lockdown

DPA
Jerusalem
Israeli police arrested eight Palestinians at a disputed Jerusalem holy site that houses Al-Aqsa Mosque, which reopened its gates on Sunday, ending a 70-day coronavirus lockdown. 
Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said eight East Jerusalem residents were detained for questioning for “disrupting” a visit by dozens of nationalist Jews to the sensitive holy site, known to Jews as the Temple Mount and to Muslims as Al-Harem Al-Sharif.
“The suspects chanted nationalistic calls against the visitors,” he told dpa.  
Police had feared unrest after border policemen on Saturday morning shot dead an unarmed, autistic Palestinian who had not heeded calls to freeze during a brief pursuit in Jerusalem’s historic Old City.
Thousands of Muslim worshippers streamed through the gates to the ancient raised platform and through the doors of al-Aqsa Mosque after they opened at 3:30 am (0030 GMT).
Al-Aqsa Mosque director Sheikh Omar al-Kiswani called on worshippers to respect the 2-metre social distancing rule after crowds rushed into the courtyard, chanting “God is the greatest” and “with (our) souls, with blood, we will protect al-Aqsa.”
Iyad Halak, in his early 30s, had been escorted by a female teacher on his way to his special education institution when he was ordered by Israeli border policemen patrolling the Old City to freeze.
Scared, he ran and hid behind a garbage container, relatives said.
An Israel Border Police statement said a commander and an officer chased him on foot. Thinking he was holding what seemed a pistol, they opened fire near Lion’s Gate. The pistol turned out to be his cellphone.
Palestinian leaders condemned the shooting as a “war crime” and said Israeli “impunity” meant it was not held accountable for such shootings.
Israeli Defence Minister Benny Gantz said he was “truly sorry” for Halak’s death. 
Israel’s new internal security minister, Amir Ohana of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud party, also expressed “sorrow.”
But he said police patrolling Jerusalem faced “a constant danger to their lives” and had to make “fateful decisions in seconds” in an area inundated with knife and shooting attacks by Palestinian militants.
Israel’s Justice Ministry has begun investigating the shooting.
Netanyahu meanwhile called on Israelis to abide by Health Ministry guidelines - wearing face masks, keeping a safe distance of 2 metres from one another and washing hands frequently - amid a rise in new coronavirus cases.

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