UN official slams Israel's Easter restrictions on Jerusalem
UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Robert Serry has slammed Israel for preventing UN and European diplomats to pass through a barricade to attend a pre-Easter ritual in a church in Jerusalem.
Serry said in a statement on Saturday that Israeli troops stopped him as well as Italian, Norwegian and Dutch diplomats for up to a half hour near the Holy Sepulchre Church “claiming they had orders to that effect.”
The UN official added that the diplomats were crushed by a crowd of worshipers trying to pass through the barricade to watch the “Holy Fire” ritual in the church.
“It became really dangerous because there was a big crowd and I was pushed against a metal fence the police put up there, the crowd tried to push really hard,” Serry said.
“I don’t understand why this happened. I’m not saying I felt my life was in imminent danger, but this wasn’t something you associate with a peaceful procession for Easter.”
Criticizing “unacceptable behavior from the Israeli security authorities,” Serry called on Tel Aviv regime to “respect the right of religious freedom.”
Israeli forces also prevent Muslim worshipers to freely enter the al-Aqsa Mosque Compound in East Jerusalem.
On April 18, Israeli forces pepper sprayed nine elderly Palestinians attempting to enter the compound.
Israeli forces erected barricades around the mosque compound as part of restrictions imposed on Palestinians.
Hundreds of Israeli troops were also deployed to check the identification of worshippers. Only Palestinian men over 50 were allowed to enter the area.