Jerusalem, Mar 1 (AP) A Palestinian militant died early Tuesday during clashes with Israeli forces in the occupied West Bank, a few hours after Israeli police dispersed Palestinian stone-throwers at a gate to Jerusalem’s Old City that has been a frequent flashpoint for rapidly escalating tensions.
The Islamic Jihad group said Abdullah al-Hossari was killed during clashes that erupted when Israeli special forces entered Jenin refugee camp in the northern West Bank. The Health Ministry said another man was seriously wounded.
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There was no immediate comment from the Israeli military, which often carries out nighttime incursions into areas controlled by the Palestinian Authority to arrested wanted Palestinians or demolish homes of militants involved in attacks against Israel.
Local Palestinian media said the dead man was a member of the “Jenin Brigade,” a newly formed group affiliated with Islamic Jihad. In August, Israel released al-Hossari from its custody after 26 months.
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Islamic Jihad is a pro-Iran Palestinian group. Its top political leaders are based in Syria and Lebanon, with some prominent officials in Gaza, where it is the second largest armed group after Gaza’s ruling Hamas’.
In Jerusalem on Monday, Israeli police fired stun grenades, rubber bullets and wastewater cannons to disperse stone-throwers.
Palestinian medics said 33 Palestinians were injured, including an 11-year-old girl hit in the face by a stun grenade. Police detained 20 Palestinians and said four police officers were also hurt.
The confrontation erupted at the Damascus Gate as large crowds streamed through the arched passage toward the Old City’s Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, Islam’s third holiest shrine.
Worshippers marked what Muslim faithful believe is Prophet Mohammad’s ascension to heaven.
It was not immediately clear what sparked Monday’s clashes. The area around the Damascus Gate has been a scene of confrontations in the past, including during last year’s holy month of Ramadan when devout Muslims fast from dawn to dusk.
At the time, police prevented Palestinians from gathering at Damascus Gate after breaking their daily fast, as was customary.
Nightly clashes erupted, with tensions rapidly spreading and triggering a two-week war between Israel and Gaza’s militant Hamas rulers. Ramadan, a time of heightened religious fervour, is to start this year at the beginning of April.
Muslim religious officers administering the Al-Aqsa Mosque area estimated that about 90,000 worshippers attended Monday’s holiday. The raised platform is revered by Jews as the Temple Mount, site of their biblical temple. The compound’s Western Wall is the holiest site where Jews can pray.
The Old City is located in east Jerusalem, which was captured by Israel in the 1967 Mideast war, along with the West Bank.
Some 700,000 Israeli settlers live in the two areas. The Palestinians seek both areas as parts of a future independent state. (AP) VM
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