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Three Palestinians killed amid tensions at Jerusalem holy site al Aqsa Mosque

Israel’s Channel 10 reported that a child of eight had died from tear gas inhalation, but that could not be confirmed.

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Palestinians Killed

JERUSALEM : – Palestinian worshippers on Friday clashed with Israeli security forces outside a Jerusalem shrine in violence prompted by the installation of metal detectors at its entry point, and at least three Palestinians were killed.

There have been daily confrontations between Palestinians hurling rocks and Israeli police using stun grenades since the detectors were placed outside the sacred venue, known to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary and to Jews as Temple Mount, on Sunday, following the killing of two Israeli policemen.

The shrine includes the al Aqsa Mosque, the third-holiest site in Islam, and the golden Dome of the Rock. It was also the site of an ancient Jewish temple, the holiest place in Judaism.

The Palestinian Health Ministry said Mohammed Sharaf, 17, and Mohammad Hassan Abu Ghannam, age unknown, died of gunshot wounds in two neighborhoods of East Jerusalem somewhat away from the epicenter of tension in the walled Old City. It reported a third Palestinian fatality, Mohammed Lafi, 18, later.

It was not immediately clear who fired the shots, with unconfirmed media reports that an Israeli from a settlement in the nearby occupied West Bank was responsible in Sharaf’s death.

Israel’s Channel 10 reported that a child of eight had died from tear gas inhalation, but that could not be confirmed.

Despite international pressure to remove the metal detectors, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s security cabinet decided in Friday’s early hours to keep them in place, saying they were needed to prevent arms being smuggled into the shrine.

In protest, thousands of worshippers gathered for Friday prayers at various entrances to the sacred compound, which sits on a marble and stone plateau in the Old City. They refused to enter, preferring to pray outside, in some cases filling the narrow alleyways of the Old City’s Muslim quarter.

“We reject Israeli restrictions at the Aqsa Mosque,” said Jerusalem’s senior Muslim cleric, Grand Mufti Mohammad Hussein.

Muslim leaders and Palestinian political factions had urged the faithful to gather for a “day of rage” on Friday against the new security policies, which they see as changing delicate agreements that have governed the holy site for decades.

But by early afternoon, with police mobilizing extra units and placing barriers to carry out checks at entrances to the Old City, there had been little serious violence. Access to the shrine for Muslims was limited to men over 50 but open to women of all ages. Roadblocks were in place on approach roads to Jerusalem to stop buses carrying Muslims to the site.

At one location near the Old City, stone throwers did try to break through a police line, and police used stun grenades to drive them back.

Injuries

Israeli police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said four officers were injured in the sporadic clashes and the Palestinian Red Crescent ambulance service said at least 377 protesters had been hurt, some suffering from tear gas inhalation.

Ahmad Abdul Salaam, a local businessman who came to pray outside the Noble Sanctuary, said: “Putting these metal detectors at the entrance to our place of worship is like putting them at the entrance to our house. Are you really going to put me through a metal detector as I go into my house?”

The hilltop compound has long been a source of religious friction. Since Israel captured and annexed the Old City, including the compound, in the 1967 Middle East war, it has also become a symbol of Palestinian nationalism. “This is our place of prayer, we have sovereignty here,” Salaam said.

On Thursday, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan called Israeli President Reuven Rivlin to press for the removal of the metal detectors.

Nickolay Mladenov, the U.N. special coordinator for the Middle East, appealed for calm and the White House called for a resolution. Jordan, the custodian of the holy site, has also been involved in mediation efforts.

But Netanyahu’s 11-member security cabinet opted in a late-night meeting to retain the metal detectors to ensure no weapons were smuggled in, a week after three Arab-Israeli gunmen shot dead two Israeli policemen in the vicinity of the complex.

Far-right members of Netanyahu’s government – which relies on religious, rightist and pro-settler parties for support – had publicly urged him to keep the devices in place.

“Israel is committed to maintaining the status quo at the Temple Mount and the freedom of access to the holy places,” the security cabinet said in a statement.

“The cabinet has authorized the police to take any decision in order to ensure free access to the holy places while maintaining security and public order.”

As well as anger at having to submit to Israeli security policies, Palestinians are alarmed at what they see as a slow chipping away at the status quo at the Noble Sanctuary.

Since Ottoman times, while Jews are permitted to visit the area, only Muslims are allowed to pray there.

Over the past decade, however, visits by religious-nationalist Jews have increased sharply and some attempt to pray. While police are supposed to eject them if they do, the rules are not always enforced, angering Muslims.

In 2000, a visit to the site by then-Israeli opposition leader Ariel Sharon triggered clashes that spiraled into the second Palestinian intifada (uprising) in which about 3,000 Palestinians and 1,000 Israelis died in four years of violence.

Reuters

Middle East

Khashoggi’s private WhatsApp messages may offer new clues

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journalist Jamal Khashoggi

Washington, Dec 3 : Slain journalist Jamal Khashoggi, in over 400 WhatsApp messages that he sent to a fellow Saudi exile before he was murdered in October, described Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman as a “beast” and a “pac-man” who would devour all in his path, even his supporters, a media report said.

Khashoggi had sent the texts to Montreal-based activist Omar Abdulaziz, the CNN report said on Monday.

The messages shared by Abdulaziz, which include voice recordings, photos and videos, paint a picture of a man deeply troubled by what he regarded as the petulance of the Crown Prince.

“The more victims he eats, the more he wants,” says Khashoggi in one message sent in May, just after a group of Saudi activists had been rounded up.

“I will not be surprised if the oppression will reach even those who are cheering him on.”

In almost daily exchanges between October 2017 and August 2018, Khashoggi and Abdulaziz conceived plans to form an electronic army to engage young Saudis back home and debunk state propaganda on social media, leveraging Khashoggi’s establishment profile and the 27-year-old Abdulaziz’s 340,000-strong Twitter following.

“(Jamal]) believed that MBS (the Crown Prince) is the issue, is the problem and he said this kid should be stopped,” Abdulaziz said in an interview with CNN on Sunday.

But in August, when he believed their conversations may have been intercepted by Saudi authorities, a sense of foreboding descends over Khashoggi.

“God help us,” he wrote.

Two months later, he was dead.

Abdulaziz on Sunday launched a lawsuit against an Israeli company that invented the software he believes was used to hack his phone.

“The hacking of my phone played a major role in what happened to Jamal, I am really sorry to say,” Abdelaziz told CNN. “The guilt is killing me.”

Abdulaziz began speaking out against the Saudi regime as a college student in Canada. His pointed criticisms of government policies drew the attention of the Saudi state, which cancelled his university scholarship.

Canada granted him asylum in 2014 and made him a permanent resident three years later.

Abdulaziz first spoke publicly about his contact with Khashoggi last month after researchers at the University of Toronto’s Citizen Lab reported his phone had been hacked by military-grade spyware.

IANS

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Middle East

U.S.-led coalition fires missiles at Syria’s military positions in eastern country

According to the report, the missiles targeted some military positions south of the town of Sukhneh in central Syria

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Damascus, Dec 3 : The US-led coalition fires several missiles on military sites in central Syria on Sunday evening, causing damages only, state-run SANA news agency reported.

According to the report, the missiles targeted some military positions south of the town of Sukhneh in central Syria, Xinhua news agency reported.

It said the attack left material losses only.

 

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Middle East

US sanctions 17 Saudi officials over killing of Khashoggi

The sanctions were handed down after Saudi Arabia’s attorney general, Saud al-Mojeb, said Thursday that he would seek the death penalty for five of the 11 suspects charged in connection with the journalist’s death.

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journalist Jamal Khashoggi

Washington, Nov 16 (IANS) The United States’ government on Thursday sanctioned 17 Saudi Arabian officials for their alleged role in the killing of dissident Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who was last seen entering the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul early last month.

Among those sanctioned by the US Treasury Department is Saud al-Qahtani, one of the chief advisers to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Efe reported.

“The Saudi officials we are sanctioning were involved in the abhorrent killing of Jamal Khashoggi (on October 2). These individuals who targeted and brutally killed a journalist who resided and worked in the United States must face consequences for their actions,” US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin was quoted as saying in a press release.

“The government of Saudi Arabia must take appropriate steps to end any targeting of political dissidents or journalists,” he added.

The US Treasury Department accused al-Qahtani of helping to plan and execute the operation that led to the killing of Khashoggi.

The other people hit with sanctions are Saudi Arabia’s consul general, Mohammed al-Otaibi; al-Qahtani’s subordinate, Maher Mutreb, who allegedly coordinated and executed the operation; and 14 others who purportedly participated in the crime.

“As a result of these designations, any property or interests in property of the individuals designated today within or transiting US jurisdiction is blocked,” Thursday’s press release said.

“Additionally, US persons are generally prohibited from engaging in transactions with blocked persons, including entities 50 percent or more owned by designated persons.”

The sanctions were handed down after Saudi Arabia’s attorney general, Saud al-Mojeb, said Thursday that he would seek the death penalty for five of the 11 suspects charged in connection with the journalist’s death.

In a press conference in Riyadh, the top prosecutor said the crown prince had not had any prior knowledge of the operation.

Al-Mojeb said the investigation had shown that Khashoggi, a government critic and Washington Post columnist, died after being restrained and injected with a tranquilizer following a fight inside the consulate.

His body was then dismembered and handed over to a Turkish collaborator, the attorney general said.

Al-Mojeb said the then-deputy head of intelligence, Maj. Gen. Ahmed al-Assiri, had masterminded the operation that was intended to get Khashoggi back to the kingdom.

He added that the order for the killing was given by the head of the delegation of agents that had traveled to Turkey, although he did not name that individual.

Khashoggi, long a part of the Saudi establishment, became estranged from Riyadh as a result of his criticism of the crown prince and had been living in self-imposed exile in the US since 2017.

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