JERUSALEM (AP): Israeli police shot and killed a 16-year-old Palestinian near the West Bank separation barrier on Friday, Palestinian health officials said, while in Jerusalem’s Old City, an alleged Palestinian attacker was killed after stabbing and injuring two Israelis, according to Israeli police.
The outbreak of violence came as tens of thousands of worshippers flocked to Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa Mosque for noon prayers on the last Friday in the holy fasting month of Ramadan.
Israeli police shot and killed 16-year-old Abdullah Ghaith near the West Bank city of Bethlehem, the Palestinian Health Ministry said, adding that another 21-year-old Palestinian was wounded by a live bullet to the stomach.
Israeli police said the Palestinian teenager was shot while attempting to climb over the heavily guarded separation barrier from Bethlehem into Jerusalem. The police added that they were launching a probe into the incident.
The boy’s father, Louai Ghaith, said his son had been trying to enter Jerusalem to pray at Al-Aqsa Mosque for the holy day. Ghaith’s body was brought to a Bethlehem hospital, where his distraught family identified him.
“He was going to fulfill his religious duty, he was going to worship,” Ghaith said. “They killed him … with a bullet to his heart, like a game, and 16 years I’ve been raising him.”
COGAT, the Israeli defense body responsible for Palestinian civilian affairs, said it eases tight movement restrictions on Palestinian residents of the West Bank traveling to Jerusalem for Friday prayers at Al-Aqsa Mosque. Women of all ages can enter for the occasion, as well as men over the age of 40 who undergo a background check. Younger Palestinian men must request an entry permit from the military, which is difficult to obtain.
Separately, Israeli police said they shot dead a 19-year-old Palestinian suspected of carrying out two stabbings near Damascus Gate, a bustling main entrance to the predominantly Palestinian part of the Old City.
Police said one Israeli was in critical condition, while the second was in moderate condition.
The suspect, police added, was shot by security forces while running through the Old City’s Muslim quarter. The Palestinian Health Ministry identified the teen as Yousef Wajih, from a village near the West Bank city of Ramallah.
The stabbings happened just hours before busloads of Muslim worshippers were to arrive from both Israel and the West Bank for Friday prayers at Al-Aqsa Mosque.
Israeli police said that over 150,000 people gathered for midday prayers, which passed without further incident. At nightfall, adherents will return to the golden-topped Dome of the Rock for intense prayer observance of “Laylat al-Qadr” or “the Night of Destiny,” when the Quran says the archangel Gabriel descended from heaven.
In other countries across the Mideast, rallies took place Friday to mark Quds, or Jerusalem Day, an annual event held on the last Friday of Ramadan. This year’s protests come as the Trump administration is pushing an Israeli-Palestinian peace plan whose details remain unknown.
On Sunday, Israel marks its own ‘Jerusalem Day,’ when celebrates capturing the Old City in the 1967 Mideast war and annexing it. Tensions run high during the holiday, as a nationalist Israeli march passes through Damascus Gate and the Muslim quarter. Israeli police said the area would be heavily patrolled to keep the parade from erupting into violence, as has happened in the past.
Most of the international community has not recognized Israel’s annexation of the eastern part of the city, which the Palestinians claim as their capital for a future state.
Jerusalem’s sacred compound, known to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary, is considered the third-holiest site in Islam, after the cities of Mecca and Medina in Saudi Arabia.