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Israel is haunting Al-Aqsa to scare Palestinian worshippers away

April 11, 2023 at 2:10 pm

Fanatic Jewish settlers accompanied by the Israeli police raid the Al-Aqsa Mosque in East Jerusalem, on April 09, 2023 [Mostafa Alkharouf/Anadolu Agency]

On the 14th night of Taraweeh, thousands of Palestinian worshippers prostrated in unison in the direction of the Holy City of Makkah, beneath the silver domed Al-Qibli Mosque in Al-Aqsa, located in Jerusalem’s walled Old City.

Hundreds of the faithful elders were tucked away in corners of the ancient, limestone walls – secluded for the Ramadan prayers, whispering verses of the Quran when the thud and shots of heavy weaponry burst into the mosque bringing imminent destruction.

Suddenly, masses of heavily armed Israeli occupation forces stormed the prayer room, hitting and kicking the heads of Palestinians with batons and the butts of their guns, wounding many, before arresting hundreds.

Windows were smashed with explosives and copies of the Quran were tipped across the floor as parts of the prayer hall were set on fire.

Women, children and the elderly found themselves with their backs against the walls crying out for the assaults to stop. However, Israeli occupation soldiers repeatedly beat Palestinian men lying face down on the ground. The scenes were unbearable, but even more dreadful, were the harrowing screams.

This is far from an isolated incident. Attacks like this during the holy month by Israeli occupation forces are growing in severity and number.

Last year saw hundreds of Palestinian worshippers wounded in Israeli raids on Al-Aqsa Mosque, Islam’s third holiest site, as the occupation forces besieged the young men within Al-Aqsa Mosque and fired rubber coated metal bullets and tear gas canisters at them.

More than 300 were arrested and at least 170 wounded as Israeli forces launched incursions at the compound, with heavily armed occupation soldiers forcibly removing Muslim worshippers from the Qibli Mosque within the Al-Aqsa compound.

Israeli settlers would then storm Al-Aqsa from the Mughrabi Gate in groups protected by the occupation forces to perform Talmudic rituals on the eastern side opposite the Dome of the Rock.

The site was also the scene of violence against Palestinian worshippers during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan in May 2021, where Israeli forces stormed the compound firing tear gas, rubber-coated steel bullets and stun grenades injuring hundreds. Further violations included cutting the cables to the loudspeakers that echoed calls to prayers to the faithful from four minarets.

The daily attacks and insults against Al-Aqsa set off a chain reaction that led to the 11-day Israeli offensive against Gaza in May 2021, during which 253 Palestinians, including 66 children, were killed.

As a result of the annual escalation of attacks during this period, Ramadan has become a month synonymous with an uptick in tensions and escalating violence. Palestinians who were detained at the compound last Wednesday night and later released said soldiers used batons, chairs, rifles and whatever else they could find to strike them, including women and children.

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The blame for the rising tensions and violence rests on the bloodstained shoulders of Itamar Ben-Gvir, the far-right Israeli national security minister, who insisted Israelis “must” storm the mosque, just days before the attack.

During an interview with Channel 12 he said: “Jews must ascend to the Temple Mount. The Temple Mount is not just for Arabs. It is the most important place for the State of Israel.”

His provocative statements were made just hours after 26-year-old Dr Mohammad Al-Osaibi, was killed after being shot at least ten times at the entrance to Al-Aqsa Mosque by Israeli occupation soldiers.

Meanwhile, far-right Israeli settler groups had called for the storming of Al-Aqsa Mosque in conjunction with the beginning of the Jewish holiday Passover, which continues until 12 April. As a result, access to Muslim worshippers was limited with only men aged 45 and above being allowed access to the mosque.

Military checkpoints were also set up and there was an increased army presence in the occupied city. Crossings in and out of the besieged Gaza Strip were closed.

All such abusive and oppressive actions against Palestinians are claimed to be imperative as a means of “securing the celebrations of the settlers.”

It’s clear that at the core of the occupation and the orchestrated annual campaign against Muslim worshippers, is the dehumanisation of the Palestinians who are condemned to being the natural target and casualty of these measures.

By enabling the violations of the sanctity of Al-Aqsa Mosque, day after day, the apartheid state also aims to force the Palestinians to come to terms with Israel’s attempts at establishing control over the Islamic holy site and to imposing its Judaisation plans, a dark fate scholars have repeatedly warned Israel is working towards.

In spite of the threats to their lives and attacks on them, tens of thousands of Muslim worshippers continue to flock to Al-Aqsa Mosque to maintain its security and sanctity. As Israel tries to haunt them to keep them at bay, they rise time and again to show how rooted their links to Al-Aqsa and Jerusalem are.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.