By Abdel Raouf Arnaout<br>
JERUSALEM (AA) – Israeli police on Friday arrested dozens of Palestinians in occupied East Jerusalem in hopes of preempting anticipated protests at the Al-Aqsa Mosque complex against the continued closure by Israel of the compound’s Al-Rahma Gate.
In a statement, the Committee of the Families of the Prisoners in Jerusalem, a Palestinian NGO, said police had so far detained more than 40 Palestinians in different parts of the city.
Since Monday, Palestinians have gathered to pray near the Al-Rahma Gate, which is located just east of the iconic Al-Aqsa Mosque, amid sporadic clashes with Israeli police.
On Sunday, police sealed off a route leading to the gate, preventing Palestinian worshippers from entering the flashpoint mosque complex.
Many Palestinians say the closures are part of an Israeli plan to divide the Al-Aqsa Mosque complex along spatial lines by dividing it between Muslim and Jewish worshippers.
According to a longstanding Israeli-enforced “status quo” that has governed affairs at Al-Aqsa for decades, Jews are forbidden to pray inside the mosque complex, which represents Islam’s third holiest site after Mecca and Medina.
The Al-Rahma Gate was first closed by the Israeli authorities in 2003. An Israeli court renewed the closure order in 2017.
The Islamic Endowments Authority, a Jordan-run entity mandated with overseeing East Jerusalem’s Muslim and Christian holy sites, has lodged repeated requests with the Israeli authorities for the gate to be permanently reopened.