Israeli police walk in front of the closed doors of Al-Aqsa Mosque during clashes with Palestinians
JERUSALEM: Palestinians wounded in clashes with Israeli police at the Al-Aqsa mosque compound have filled the halls of an east Jerusalem hospital, where several had lost an eye after being hit by rubber bullets.
Ezzedine, a 19-year-old carpenter from the West Bank city of Nablus, said Monday that doctors at the large Makassed Hospital told him he would not regain sight in his left eye after being injured at the flashpoint site.
He said he came to Al-Aqsa to perform Ramzan prayers on Friday night when police began firing stun grenades and tear gas in clashes that saw Palestinians hurl rocks and other projectiles.
“They want to take a place that’s not theirs,” he told AFP, referring to Israel’s actions at Islam‘s third holiest site, which is also revered by Jews who call it the Temple Mount.
Israel has insisted it is committed to the rights of Muslims to worship at Al-Aqsa, but that it has been forced to suppress riots at the compound instigated by Palestinians.
Rights group Amnesty International argued that “Israeli forces have repeatedly deployed disproportionate and unlawful force to disperse protesters during violent raids on al-Aqsa mosque”.
More than 700 Palestinians, and more than two dozen Israeli police, have been wounded since Friday in violence at Al-Aqsa and in other parts of Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem.
The youngest of six brothers and sisters, Ezzedine declined to give his last name because he had slipped into Jerusalem illegally to pray.
Makassed director general Adnan Farhoud said the hospital had received over 200 patients since the unrest began.
Most injuries were to the head, chest and limbs, he said — arguing the wounds showed that Israeli forces intended to cause significant injury.
When “you mean to harm someone, you shoot at the head”, he told AFP.
Police said nine officers were hurt Monday after 18 had been injured overnight on Friday.
The Palestinian Red Crescent said it opened a field hospital to treat the wounded before evacuating patients to a local hospital.
The Augustus Victoria hospital in east Jerusalem opened a special emergency room to treat the injured.
Farhoud said the violence in Jerusalem was the worst he had seen in years, although less severe than in 1990, when nearly 20 Palestinians were killed in clashes with police at Al-Aqsa.
“Before, they were using live bullets,” Farhoud said. “Now, they’re using rubber bullets.”
One patient who was wheeled into surgery had suffered a spleen injury after being hit with a rubber bullet.
Siraj, 24, sat in a wheelchair in jeans torn away from his legs, which were both wrapped in white gauze.
White paint covered his shirt from his early morning work renovating apartments.
He said he went from work to Al-Aqsa to pray and was wounded when Israeli police entered the mosque and began firing stun grenades.
“They shot everyone, young and old people,” he said. “They shot a stun grenade toward me and hit my legs. I feel the pain and I hope it subsides.”
The Israeli actions have served to “provoke the youths”, argued Siraj.
Israeli leaders have insisted that police acted in response to rioters engaged in dangerous provocations.