Al-Aqsa: Palestinians 'illegally' forced to leave ID with Israel police to access mosque
Israeli police forced Palestinians to leave behind their identity cards in order to access Al-Aqsa Mosque in occupied East Jerusalem last Thursday, according to reports.
Police made young Palestinian men, among them East Jerusalem residents and Palestinian citizens of Israel, queue up to submit their IDs in order to enter the mosque for worship, Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported on Tuesday.
The move, which has been slammed by rights groups followed an Israeli raid on the holy site that day. It followed similar raids over a period of about a week that has seen worshippers teargassed, shot at, and beaten with batons.
"They want people not to come," Palestinian East Jerusalemite Ahmed Maarouf said, adding that the measure is enforced when there is tension at Al-Aqsa or elsewhere in Jerusalem.
"It makes it hard for you as a worshipper, and it doesn’t feel comfortable that you, an innocent person, leave your ID card with police. Why?"
Muslims aged between 17 and 45 years old were forced to hand over their IDs on Thursday, while those with disabilities or who were above 45 did not face this restriction.
Palestinians who refused were forbidden from praying at the mosque, while those who complied were given a ticket to retrieve their IDs. Some Palestinians said police interrogated them before handing their cards back.
Legal NGO Adalah, which works to support Israel's Palestinian minority, sent Israeli authorities a letter alleging some people had been told to attend a police station to get their ID back.
Adalah called the Israeli police's conduct illegal, adding that it "limited the freedom of the worshippers and violated their rights to freedom of worship, movement and dignity".
Hassan Jabareen, a lawyer and the group's founder, said that the police are allowed, "at most, to instruct residents to present their ID card only".
Haaretz was told Israeli police began applying this rule, which the Association for Civil Rights in Israel similarly said threatens religious rights, in 2015 at the latest.
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Israeli police have enforced the practice for nearly all of the Jewish Passover festival, which ran from 15 April to last Saturday, one Jerusalem Old City local told the paper.
Israeli forces often attack Al-Aqsa during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, which this year overlapped with Passover and saw Jewish settlers raid the mosque and attempting to perform rituals there.
Palestinians view these attacks as a provocation and an effort to transform the compound in part or fully into a Jewish place of worship.
According to Haaretz, the police did not reply.