Jerusalem Palestinian youths ready for new intifada

Jerusalem Palestinian youths ready for new intifada
Palestinians take part in an anti-Israel rally to show solidarity with al-Aqsa mosque, in Gaza City October 17, 2014. Palestinians, fearing Israel planned to restrict access to the al-Aqsa mosque compound for Muslims, clashed with Israeli police there earlier this week when security forces arrived for what a police spokesman said was an attempt to stop them from "staging a riot and disrupting visits."

JERUSALEM - Fourteen-year-old Hisham, who was born around the start of the second Palestinian intifada, dreams of a new uprising so he can play his part in "defending" Jerusalem's Al-Aqsa mosque.

Al-Aqsa, situated in the heart of Jerusalem's Old City, is the buzzword for Hisham and his contemporaries - most of whom refuse to give their real or full names - since it once again became the focal point of the intractable Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The Al-Aqsa mosque compound, the third holiest site in Islam and Judaism's holiest - known to Jews as the Temple Mount - represents for Palestinian youngsters the Israeli occupation and the oppression it brings.

For Hisham, who peers with hazel eyes from beneath his grey hooded sweatshirt, the increasing number of Jewish visits to the site is the same thing as the more and more frequent arrest raids by Israeli security forces around his home in Shuafat refugee camp of annexed east Jerusalem.

"At 3:00 am, the soldiers come into the camp, impose a curfew, search the area, and then break and enter" into the houses of their targets.

"We're used to it. All the young people go in and out of prison on a regular basis."

Hisham recently spent his first stint in prison - a week for taking part in clashes with security forces - and will be tried within a month.

Twenty-year-old Mohammed, who has just spent four months in prison, said his incarceration would not deter him.

"There's no peace in Jerusalem. It's an intifada," he said.

"I'm ready to go back and confront the Israeli soldiers. I can't bear seeing (Jewish) settlers on the (Al-Aqsa) mosque compound, when Muslims aren't allowed in."

Israel often blocks access to the site to Palestinian men under the age of 50, in security measures designed to avoid constant tension boiling over into clashes, which are frequent.

On Thursday, Israel shut the Al-Aqsa compound, promising to reopen it overnight, after clashes in east Jerusalem where police killed a Palestinian accused of trying to murder a hardline rabbi.

'Religious conflict'

Social worker Wael Mahmud said the reasons for the anger are deep-seated, rooted in the perceived takeover of Arab areas of east Jerusalem by hardline Jewish settlers, and the alleged complicity of authorities.

Of some 200,000 Israelis in east Jerusalem, mostly in Jewish-only settlement blocs, around 2,000 settlers live in the middle of Palestinian neighbourhoods.

A recent takeover of several properties in the flashpoint Silwan neighbourhood saw settlers move into 25 Palestinian-owned apartments.

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