The completion of a new watchtower on Wednesday as a response to numerous stabbing attacks at the Damascus Gate entrance to the Old City of Jerusalem sparked Palestinian outrage for its “assault on Islamic heritage”.
Khaled Abu Toameh reported in Times of Israel that the Palestinians were planning a series of protests in response to the watchtower. Two more watchtowers are being planned for the Damascus gate.
Yousef Natsheh, a senior official with the Islamic Waqf Department, denounced the installation of the watchtower as an “assault on Islamic heritage and an attempt to change our history.”
He accused Israel of using security as an excuse to “distort” Damascus Gate and alter the Arab and Islamic character of Jerusalem.
“What’s happening at Damascus Gate,” he added, “is morally, scientifically, and ethically unacceptable.”
“This is another Israeli assault on Jerusalem and its Arab population,” charged a senior Fatah official living in the city. “Israel is mistaken if it thinks we will allow it to pursue with its plan to Judaize Jerusalem and empty it of its Arab residents.”
— Dr. Basem Naim (@basemn63) February 15, 2018
The Middle East Eye (MEE), a news portal covering events in the Middle East that has published several articles supportive of the Muslim Brotherhood, connected the security measures to US President Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
“Construction at the Damascus Gate area – one of the most popular entrances used by Palestinians – started a month after US President Donald Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital,” MEE wrote.
MEE quoted Mahdi Abdul Hadi, the head of the Palestinian Academic Society for the Study of International Affairs (PASSIA) based in Jerusalem.
“The checkpoints at Damascus Gate are aimed at paralyzing any Palestinian social, religious and youthful movements in this site,” Hadi said. “What we are witnessing are military and police procedures, under the umbrella of security, to push out Palestinians from their city.”
This reaction is similar to protests in July against the installation of metal detectors at the entrances to the Temple Mount. After a Palestinian terror attack launched from inside the Temple Mount claimed the lives of two Israeli policemen, metal detectors were installed at the entrances used by Muslims to the compound. Muslims boycotted the site and waged protests outside the site which frequently turned violent. In response, the Israel government removed the security measures. Currently, Muslims who enter the site do not pass through any security measures. Jews who enter the site must undergo body searches and other security checks.