• 14 April 2023
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Violence and outrage result from Israeli forces entering the Al-Aqsa Mosque during Ramadan.

Violence and outrage result from Israeli forces entering the Al-Aqsa Mosque during Ramadan.

JERUSALEM – Israeli police raided the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in occupied East Jerusalem on Tuesday and Wednesday night, firing stun grenades and attacking Palestinian worshippers during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. The incident, which coincided with the Jewish Passover holiday, triggered rocket fire from the Gaza Strip and retaliatory Israeli airstrikes, raising fears of a wider escalation.

The Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, known to Muslims as al-Haram al-Sharif and to Jews as the Temple Mount, is one of the most sensitive and contested sites in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It is the holiest site both in Islam and Judaism. Israel captured East Jerusalem from Jordan in 1967 and annexed it in a move not recognized by most of the international community. Palestinians want to occupy East Jerusalem as the capital of their future state.

According to Israeli police, they entered the compound on Tuesday night because “hundreds of rioters and mosque desecrators barricaded themselves” inside the mosque after nightly Ramadan prayers, violating an agreement that worshippers would not stay overnight. They said they used force to remove them after they threw stones and firecrackers at them.

However, Palestinians said they were practicing Itikaf, a religious act that involves staying inside mosques overnight to pray and recite the Quran. They accused Israel of violating their religious rights and provoking them during a sacred time.

The Palestine Red Crescent Society said it treated at least 37 people for injuries sustained during the raids. It also said one of its ambulances was hit by a stun grenade and the driver was beaten by Israeli forces. The Israeli police said two officers were injured and 350 people were arrested on Tuesday night.

The violence continued on Wednesday night when Israeli forces stormed the mosque again while around 20,000 Palestinian worshippers were performing the Taraweeh prayer. To evacuate the mosque, they used rubber-coated bullets, tear gas, and shock grenades. Then they chased after people and clubbed them with batons. At least six persons were hurt, and more people were detained.

The raids sparked anger and solidarity among Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip. In Beit Ummar, a town near Hebron, protesters burned tires and threw rocks and explosive devices at Israeli soldiers, who responded with live fire. One soldier was shot and wounded, according to the Israeli army.

In Gaza, several rockets were fired toward Israel, most of which were intercepted by the Iron Dome air defense system. Israel retaliated with airstrikes that hit three Hamas training camps, according to the Israeli army. Witnesses also reported tank shelling along the border fence. Both side did not record any casualties.

The raids also drew condemnation from various countries and organizations around the world. Jordan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Qatar, Germany, and Canada all issued statements either denouncing or expressing concern over the attack. The United Nations called for restraint and respect for the status quo of the holy site. The European Union urged calm and dialogue.

Hamas, the Islamist movement that controls Gaza, warned Israel of “a great price” for attacking Islamic sanctities. The Palestinian Authority called for international intervention to protect the mosque and hold Israel accountable for its “crimes”. Israel defended its actions as necessary to maintain order and security at the site.

The situation remains tense as both Muslims and Jews prepare to celebrate important religious occasions in the coming days. Muslims will mark Laylat al-Qadr, or Night of Destiny, on Saturday night, when they believe the Quran was first revealed to Prophet Muhammad. Jews will observe Yom Ha’atzmaut, or Independence Day, on Sunday night, marking 75 years since the establishment of Israel.


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