[provocation] Israeli forces raid Al-Aqsa Mosque for third time since start of Ramadan

Israeli Border Police in the Old City of Jerusalem (Mahmoud Illean - AP)

MEE Staff

Middle East Eye  /  April 18, 2022

Officers clear courtyards to allow Jewish settlers to enter and hold Passover prayers at the occupied East Jerusalem holy site.

Israeli forces stormed Al-Aqsa Mosque for the third time since the beginning of Ramadan early on Monday, clearing worshippers from courtyards to allow Israeli settlers to enter the occupied East Jerusalem holy site and hold prayers to mark the Jewish Passover holiday.

The Palestinian news agency Wafa said large numbers of officers had entered the area and snipers had been positioned on the roofs of the mosque and adjacent buildings.

Large numbers of Israeli settlers spread across the courtyards and were observed praying by Wafa’s correspondent.

The correspondent said Israeli forces had fired rubber-coated metal bullets and obstructed the work of medics and the press crews inside the courtyards, as well as assaulting women in the vicinity of the Dome of the Rock.

People under the age of 25 were also prevented from entering the mosque.

Far-right Israeli activists and settler groups had announced plans to storm Al-Aqsa this week in large numbers, starting from Sunday, to mark Passover. 

The Islamic Waqf, a joint Jordanian-Palestinian trust that administers the affairs of Al-Aqsa, recorded more than 500 Jewish settlers entering during this period.

On Monday, Jordan’s foreign ministry summoned the Israeli envoy in Amman and demanded an “immediate stop to violations” in Al-Aqsa mosque. 

The foreign minister said in a statement that “Israel’s measures to change the status quo on the Mount are a dangerous escalation”.

“Israel bears full responsibility for the consequences of the current escalation that is thwarting efforts invested to bring about calm. Israel police have no right to organize visits by non-Muslims there. Only the Muslim Waqf does,” it added.

Israeli forces raided Al-Aqsa Mosque for the first time during Ramadan on Friday. During a second raid on Sunday, hundreds of Israelis, protected by heavily armed forces, continuously stormed the courtyard of the mosque in different groups. 

Several Palestinians were injured on Sunday and others were detained by Israeli security forces. 

The Palestinian health ministry said two Palestinian men were critically injured by Israeli forces on Monday during a raid in the village of Yamun, west of Jenin, in the northern West Bank. Wafa said the two men were being treated in hospital.

The news agency also reported that Israeli forces had closed the Ibrahimi Mosque in Hebron-Al-Khalil in preparation for Israeli settlers to storm it and celebrate Passover.

The Hebron Endowments Directorate told Wafa that the mosque had been closed at 10pm on Sunday and would not be allowed to open for two days.

____

More than 20 injured in Israeli-Palestinian clashes around Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem

AFP  /  April 18, 2022

Israeli police say Palestinians in compound began gathering stones before the arrival of Jewish visitors later seen leaving under police guard.

More than 20 Palestinians and Israelis have been wounded in several incidents in and around Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, two days after major violence at the flashpoint site.

The clashes on Sunday take the number of wounded since Friday to more than 170, at a tense time when the Jewish Passover festival coincides with the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan.

They also follow deadly violence in Israel and the occupied West Bank starting in late March in which 36 people have been killed.

Early on Sunday morning, police said “hundreds” of Palestinian demonstrators inside the mosque compound started gathering piles of stones, shortly before the arrival of Jewish visitors.

Jews are allowed to visit but not to pray at the site, also known as the Temple Mount, the holiest place in Judaism and third-holiest in Islam.

Israeli police said its forces had entered the compound in order to “remove” the demonstrators and “re-establish order”.

The Palestinian Red Crescent said 19 Palestinians were wounded, including at least five who were hospitalized. It said some had been wounded with rubber-coated steel bullets.

Early on Sunday morning Jewish worshippers were seen leaving the site – barefoot for religious reasons – protected by heavily armed police.

Outside the Old City, which lies in Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem, Palestinian youths threw rocks at passing buses, smashing their windows, resulting in seven people being treated for light wounds, Shaare Zedek hospital said.

Police said they had arrested 18 Palestinians, and the public security minister, Omer Bar-Lev, said Israel would “act strongly against anyone who dares to use terrorism against Israeli citizens”.

The Israeli prime minister, Naftali Bennett, said the security forces “continue to receive a free hand … for any action that will provide security to the citizens of Israel”, while stressing every effort should be made to allow members of all religions to worship in Jerusalem.

King Abdullah II of Jordan – which serves as custodian of holy places in east Jerusalem – called on Israel on Sunday to “stop all illegal and provocative measures” that drives “further aggravation”.

Senior Palestinian official Hussein al-Sheikh said that “Israel’s dangerous escalation in the Al-Aqsa compound … is a blatant attack on our holy places”, and called on the international community to intervene.

The chief of the Hamas Islamist movement, which controls the Palestinian enclave of Gaza, had earlier warned Israel that “Al-Aqsa is ours and ours alone”.

“Our people have the right to access it and pray in it, and we will not bow down to [Israeli] repression and terror,” Ismail Haniyeh said in a statement.

Meanwhile, Israel’s fractious governing coalition faced a new split on Sunday when the Israeli-Palestinian party Ra’am “suspended” its membership amid the Jerusalem violence.

The government – an ideologically disparate mix of leftwing, hardline Jewish nationalist and religious parties, as well as Ra’am – had already lost its razor-thin majority this month when a religious Jewish member quit in a dispute over leavened bread distribution at hospitals.

Since then, the clashes around the Al-Aqsa compound put Ra’am under pressure to quit too.

“If the government continues its steps against the people of Jerusalem … we will resign as a bloc,” Ra’am said in a statement, hours after the latest injuries around Al-Aqsa.

The UN has called for calm, a year after clashes in and around the mosque compound escalated into an 11-day war between Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza.

Weeks of mounting tensions saw two recent deadly attacks by Palestinians in or near the Israeli coastal city of Tel Aviv, alongside mass arrests by Israeli forces in the occupied West Bank.

A total of 14 people have been killed in attacks against Israel since 22 March.

Twenty-two Palestinians have been killed over the same period, including assailants who targeted Israelis, according to an Agence France-Presse tally.

On Friday morning, police clashed with Palestinians in the Al-Aqsa compound, including inside the Al-Aqsa Mosque, drawing strong condemnation from Muslim countries. Some 150 people were wounded during those clashes.

The Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in a call on Sunday with the Palestinian president, Mahmud Abbas, said he would make contact with all sides to “end the Israeli escalation”, Abbas’ office said in a statement.

Pope Francis on Sunday prayed for peace as Christians marked Easter at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, where they believe Jesus died and was resurrected. The pontiff said in his Easter address: “May Israelis, Palestinians and all who dwell in the Holy City, together with the pilgrims, experience the beauty of peace, dwell in fraternity and enjoy free access to the holy places in mutual respect for the rights of each.”

Despite the tensions, hundreds of Christians staged a lively parade in Jerusalem, with processions led by marching bands with deafening drums and wailing bagpipes.