[detailed account] Israeli Occupation Forces’ escalation in occupied East Jerusalem and Al-Aqsa Mosque [May 7]

Israeli police stands in front of the Damascus Gate in Jerusalems Old City (Ammar Awwad - Reuters).

Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR)  /  May 8, 2021

IOF escalation in occupied East Jerusalem and Al-Aqsa Mosque: 205 Palestinians, including 5 journalists, wounded; 3 lost their eyes, and 17 others arrested.

On Friday, 205 Palestinians, including 5 journalists, were wounded; 2 were deemed serious and 3 others lost their eyes during mass suppression by Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) against tens of thousands of Palestinian worshipers in Al-Aqsa Mosque and its yards, in Bab al-‘Amoud area and in Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood in occupied East Jerusalem. IOF raided Al-Aqsa Mosque, violated its sanctity, deprived Palestinian worshipers of performing prayers, assaulted dozens of them, dragged them on the ground, and arrested 17 of them.

According to investigations conducted by the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR), on Friday, 7 May 2021, while tens of thousands of Palestinian worshipers were heading to Al-Aqsa Mosque to perform the last Friday prayer in Ramadan, thousands of Israeli soldiers flocked into occupied East Jerusalem’s Old City, stationed on its streets and at Al-Aqsa Mosque’s gates, established dozens of military checkpoints, and closed the city entrances. Before Maghrib prayer, IOF tightened their measures around Al-Aqsa Mosque; closed al-Wad Road, which leads to Al-Aqsa Mosque’s gates from the western side (the gate: Bab al-Majlis, Bab al Hadid, Bab al Qattanin and Bab al Silsilah); denied worshipers’ access to the mosque, fired sound bombs at them; pointed their guns at them to scare them and force them to leave. As a result, the worshipers tried to find alternative roads to enter the mosque from its northern gates, causing a traffic jam in the Old City. Before ‘Isha and Tarawih prayers, verbal altercation erupted between one of the worshipers and Israeli police officers stationed at Bab al Silsilah. After that, IOF suddenly raided Al-Aqsa Mosque via Bab al Silsilah and fired heavy sound bombs and rubber bullets at the worshipers present in the mosque’s western yards, which caused clashes continued between IOF and worshipers in the mosque’s yards for 4 hours. During the clashes, IOF cut the wires of Bab al Magharibah Minaret, cut off the electricity in Al-Aqsa Mosque’s facilities, topped and raided Al-Qibli Mosque, fired sound bombs at the worshipers, detained them inside the mosque, and closed its doors with iron chains. In Bab al-Rahma Mosque, IOF fired sound bombs and rubber bullets at the worshipers while performing prayers. They also fired sound bombs at the Dome of the Rock gates, which designated for women entry. Additionally, IOF stormed and targeted Al-Aqsa Mosque’s clinic, fired sound bombs inside it, damaged its contents, assaulted medical crews and injuries present there. After that, IOF used excessive force to evacuate and disperse tens of thousands of worshipers from Al-Aqsa Mosque, its facilities and yards, and indiscriminately fired heavy rubber bullets and sound bombs at them. As a result, dozens of worshipers were shot with rubber bullets in their upper limbs, including 5 journalists who were wounded while covering incidents in al-Aqsa Mosque. The wounded journalists were identified as Fayiz Abu Irmilah, ‘Atta ‘Ewisat, ‘Abed al-‘Afou Bassam, Mohammed Abu Suninah, and Mohammed Samreen. Journalist ‘Ewisat said to PCHR’s fieldworker that a police officer fired 3 rubber bullets at him from a distance of 0.5 meter and damaged his cell phone. He added that despite all bullets fired at him, he remained standing. After that, seven police officers approached him and beat him up throughout his body, so he fell to the ground.

When the worshippers were forcefully evicted from Al-Aqsa Mosque to the Old City’s neighbourhoods and its surrounding, clashes broke out between dozens of Palestinian young men and IOF in Bab Huta, Bab al-‘Amoud and al-Saherah neighbourhoods. IOF closed the two gates with iron barriers and denied citizens’ access via which. During the clashes, IOF arrested many young men and wounded others. Meanwhile in the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood, IOF and settlers’ attacks continued against its residents and those in solidarity for the second consecutive week.  Since Friday early morning, IOF heavily deployed in the neighbourhood, closed its entrances and prevented persons in solidarity from reaching the houses under the threat of eviction. In a serious development, IOF allowed more than 200 armed settlers to enter the neighbourhood.  Following the Friday Prayer, tens of Palestinians and internationals gathered in solidarity at the neighbourhood’s entrance, chanted national slogans condemning the occupation. Those in solidarity stayed at Sheikh Jarrah’s entrances until al-Maghreb Prayer, away from the neighbourhood’s families, who organized an Iftar in front of their houses, amid heavy deployment of IOF which prevented the persons standing in solidarity from joining the families and had their Iftars on pavements. After they finished, they chanted national slogans condemning settlers’ attacks. IOF immediately beat them, pumped wastewater at them and fired rubber bullets and sound bombs at them. As a result, many injuries and arrests were reported.

Due to IOF’s wide-scale suppression in Jerusalem, 205 citizens were injured in Al-Aqsa Mosque, the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood and Bab al-‘Amoud; 88 injuries were referred to Jerusalem’s hospitals, 20 were referred to the field hospitals and the rest were treated on the spot as stated by PRCS [Palestine Red Crescent Society].

PRCS said that most injuries were with rubber bullets in the chest and face.  As a result, 3 persons lost their eyes and were transported to St John Eye hospital in Sheikh Jarrah, Al-Makassed Hospital and Hadassah Medical Center. The medical staff at Al-Makassed Hospital in At-Tur neighbourhood, east of Jerusalem’s Old City, said that they treated 83 injuries with rubber bullets: 3 were in the eye, including one lost his eye, 2 were serious injuries in the head, 2 were jaw fractures and the rest were minor injuries. 

In addition to their attacks on the medical staff who was on duty, IOF prevented 2 PRCS ambulance crews from Bethlehem and Ramallah from providing help in aid and treatment due to the increasing number of injuries.  The crews arrived at Qalandia and Tunnel checkpoints to enter Jerusalem but they were denied, in violation of the international humanitarian law principles, which emphasizes respect for the PRCS badge and protection and facilitation of their medical duties.

During the intense attacks on citizens and worshippers and pulling down some of them, IOF arrested 17 citizens in Al-Aqsa Mosque, Bab al-‘Amoud and al-Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood and took them to the police station in the occupied city.

It should be mentioned that since the beginning of Ramadan, Bab al-‘Amoud yard has witnessed intense attacks by IOF in an attempt to prevent Palestinian gatherings in the yard.  Moreover, a peaceful protest organized by al-Sheikh Jarrah families whose are under threat of forcible eviction is daily suppressed for the second consecutive week, including attacks by settlers under IOF’s protection.  Due to those attacks, 237 injuries and tens of arrests were reported.

PCHR strongly condemns IOF’s suppression of the Palestinian worshippers, raid of Al-Aqsa Mosque in disrespect for its sanctity and firing sound bombs inside.  PCHR hereby warns of the serious implications of this escalating violence; during which IOF attempts to impose a fait accompli that infringes the Palestinian rights.

These developments along with the Israeli intention to forcibly evict Palestinian families in al-Sheikh Jarrah and ongoing preparations to organize a mass demonstration by settlers on 28 Ramadan in Bab al-‘Amoud area upon calls from “Temple Organizations” on the anniversary of the occupation of Jerusalem in 1967, according to the Hebrew calendar foretells a serious escalation of the incidents that would extend to all-over the occupied Palestinian territory.

PCHR emphasizes that all these Israeli measures are illegal and falls under a genuine policy by the Israeli authorities against the occupied City of Jerusalem and its institutions since its occupation in June 1967 that aims at changing its features in favour of more settlement expansion and create a Jewish majority to impose new reality that would rule out the Palestinians’ right in it.

PCHR asserts that East Jerusalem is an occupied city and that no measures taken by the occupation authorities since the 1967 occupation can change its legal status as an occupied territory.

PCHR calls upon the High Contracting Parties to the Geneva Conventions to respect and to ensure respect for the Conventions in all circumstances as per the Common Article 1 of the Geneva Conventions. PCHR believes that there is a conspiracy of silence practiced by the international community that enables Israel to commit further violations of the international human rights law and international humanitarian law, including the efforts to create a Jewish majority in occupied east Jerusalem.

Ref: 51/2021