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Israel installs checkpoints at popular Old City gate, sparks Palestinian anger

The file photo taken from Twitter shows a two-storey watchtower checkpoint under construction at Damascus Gate, a key entrance to the Old City of Jerusalem al-Quds.

Israel has finished the installation of a checkpoint at a key entrance into the Old City of Jerusalem al-Quds, sparking outrage among the Palestinian residents, who consider such measures to be in line with the regime’s US-backed agenda to fully purge the occupied city of its Palestinian population.

The watchtower checkpoint was ready for use on Thursday at Damascus Gate, a highly popular entrance used by the Palestinians to cross into the Old City.

The area, known to the Palestinians as Bab al-Amoud, also serves as a spot for Palestinian public gatherings as well as anti-Israel protests.

Israel began constructing the checkpoint last month weeks after US President Donald Trump said Washington was recognizing Jerusalem al-Quds as Israel’s “capital,” and preparing to transfer its embassy from Tel Aviv to the ancient Palestinian city.

This is the first of three such checkpoints Tel Aviv plans to construct at Damascus Gate under the pretext of providing “security” and protecting its forces against alleged Palestinian stabbing attacks.

The international community views Israel’s presence in the Old City as a clear stance of occupation, which came when the regime invaded the area in the 1967 Israeli-Arab War and later annexed it.

The United Nations and the European Union have repeatedly called on Israel to withdraw from the area, saying the fate of Jerusalem al-Quds should be decided in negotiations with the Palestinians, who want the eastern part of the city as the capital of their future state.

However, the Trump declaration seems to have emboldened the Israeli regime to pursue its policy of taking full control of the Old City, which is home to several of the holiest Muslim sites.

Israeli forces keep watch at Damascus Gate, outside the Old City of Jerusalem al-Quds, on January 22, 2018. (Photo by AFP)

Israelis are now in the middle of building two concrete checkpoints at Damascus Gate. Witnesses say they have dug the area, uprooted trees and installed surveillance cameras equipped with sound detectors at the gate.

Meanwhile, Palestinians have vowed to hold a series of demonstrations against the installation of the checkpoints, saying the measure is meant to change “the Arab and Islamic character” of occupied Jerusalem al-Quds.

“This is another Israeli assault on Jerusalem [al-Quds] and its Arab population,” The Times of Israel quoted a senior Fatah official living in the city as saying. “Israel is mistaken if it thinks we will allow it to pursue with its plan to Judaize Jerusalem [al-Quds] and empty it of its Arab residents.”

Palestinian activists also called on the governments around the Muslim world to take action against Israel’s checkpoint construction at the gate.

Ahmad Bukhari, a Palestinian activist and journalist, said Israel has turned Damascus Gate into a “military fortress,” adding, “Such measures distort the beautiful face of Jerusalem [al-Quds]. It’s an ugly scene that’s harmful to the history and heritage of the city.”

Some residents warned that the installation of the watchposts at Damascus Gate may triggers a wave of protests similar to those that broke out in July 2017, when Israel installed security cameras and metal detectors at the entrances to the al-Aqsa Mosque compound in East Jerusalem al-Quds.

Palestinian protesters successfully forces Israel to remove the metal detectors and surveillance cameras.

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