By Kaamil Ahmed
Between the sounds of prayers, protest chants and stun grenades, rare signs of an organized Palestinian protest movement began to emerge around Jerusalem's Al-Aqsa mosque as ever-growing crowds continued to gather outside the flashpoint holy site.
Local Christian clergy joined the imams of Al-Aqsa on Tuesday in leading thousands of worshippers to the mosque's perimeter, where they prayed the sunset and night prayers without entering, in protest against new metal detectors Israel installed at the gates of the holy site.
The crowd had swelled over several hours of rallies and prayers headed by religious leaders without any confrontation with Israeli security forces until they appeared to respond heavily to a bottle being thrown at them.
The Palestinian Red Crescent said 34 people were injured in the resulting clashes as police forced the worshippers away, including former Grand Mufti of Jerusalem Sheikh Ikrema Sabri who was injured by a rubber bullet.
"We won't enter through the gates of the Zionists, we will enter through the gates of Allah," a protester at Lions Gate, who did not want to be named, told Anadolu Agency.
Ofer Zalzberg, a security analyst for think tank Crisis Group, told Anadolu Agency the protests were different from clashes between Palestinian youth and Israeli security forces in 2015, which were more violent but involved far fewer people.
"Now we are seeing something very different. We are seeing increasingly larger mobilization of the population of East Jerusalem in non-violent protests against the measures they abhor," he said.
"This is remarkable against the backdrop of 17 years now that Israel has a policy of preventing the emergence of any organized political activities by Palestinians in East Jerusalem."
Zalzberg added "East Jerusalem in many ways is leaderless, nevertheless we are seeing the Arab part of the city is able to muster collective action."
Israel has defended the controversial new metal detectors, which were installed in response to a deadly shootout inside the mosque on Friday, claiming they were no different to security measures at other religious sites.
Palestinians have, however, accused Israel of trying to alter the "status quo" – a delicate balance of prayer and visiting rights at the holy site – by imposing searches on worshippers.
Sabri told Anadolu Agency on Monday that Israel was trying to "impose its sovereignty over Al-Aqsa" and called for Muslims not to enter the mosque until the metal detectors are removed.
The leading faction in the Palestinian Authority (PA), Fatah, has called for a "Day of Rage" in the occupied West Bank on Wednesday, though many of the chants during Tuesday night protests were directed against the PA itself.
The protests have grown daily since Al-Aqsa was reopened on Sunday after a two-day closure in response to shootout that killed two Israeli police officers and three Palestinians.