Khaled Shweiki raised his hand above his head, his fingers flashing “V” for victory, after praying recently outside the al-Aqsa mosque — feeling a rare sense of elation for a Palestinian who lives in East Jerusalem.
“We proved that we, as Jerusalemites, are able to protect al-Aqsa,” he said. “We won.”
After decades of feeling leaderless, under occupation, and with many living in poverty, East Jerusalem’s Palestinians declared victory — saying their use of prayer to protest against new security measures forced Israel to back down.
This latest round of tensions began after two Israeli police officers were shot and killed in the early hours of July 14. Three Arab citizens of Israel smuggled the weapons used in the killings into the al-Aqsa compound. The three men were shot dead by Israeli security forces.
New measures revive old tensions
Israeli authorities responded by installing metal detectors and security cameras outside some of the gates to the religious site, located in Jerusalem’s Old City.
But Palestinians — including East Jerusalemites, residents of the West Bank and those with Israeli citizenship — banded together to demonstrate against what they believed to be an attempt by Israel to change the status quo, the delicate set of rules that govern access to the site, which is known to Muslims as Haram al-Sharif, and the Temple Mount to Jews.
“[Israel] think[s] they can take more control over the people. We are the people and we give our souls to God,” said Mohammad Rabiya, a resident of the Old City.
“Israel should keep their hands off of us and leave us alone,” he said.
Israel removed the cameras and metal detectors last week, after diplomatic efforts that involved the United Nations, the United States, Jordan and other Muslim Arab nations.
As tensions flared, violence broke out alongside many of the demonstrations. Four Palestinians died in clashes with the Israeli security…