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Former Israeli soldier returns key to Al-Aqsa Mosque after 56 years

May 21, 2023 at 1:51 pm

Palestinian in Gaza protests the right to return to their homeland on 14 May 2018 [Mahmoud Khattab/Apaimages]

A former Israeli soldier handed back a key Thursday for a gate of Al-Aqsa Mosque in occupied East Jerusalem after stealing it 56 years ago, Anadolu reports.

The Islamic Endowments Department in Jerusalem published a video showing its director general Sheikh Azzam Al-Khatib receiving the key from the man, identified as Yair Barack.

In the video, Barack said he was part of the Israeli battalion that fought on the East Jerusalem front, adding that many of his comrades died during the fighting in 1967.

“I arrived at the Al-Mughrabi Gate (in the western corridor of Al-Aqsa Mosque)…and when I looked at the left side, I found a key. I don’t know why I put my hand on it and took it,” he said.

“I put the key in my pocket, and since then, I’ve had it in my possession,” he added.

Barack said that after 40 or 50 years, he began feeling uncomfortable that the key was still with him “simply because I stole it and I now decided to return it.”

“Now I am here. I returned the key that I had stolen. I returned it back to its owners…and this is what Israel should do — to return back to the Palestinians their land, rights, respect, independence, freedom and security,” he said.

He said that after returning the key, he felt he “did the right thing.”

His handing back of the key came as Israeli settlers along with scores of Israeli officials joined a “flag march” to celebrate their occupation of East Jerusalem in 1967.

Commenting on the controversial march, he said this is one of the worst days in the year for him, adding he stopped celebrating “flag day” a long time ago.

The Flag March is staged by Israeli settlers every year to mark what they call the unification of Jerusalem, in reference to Israel’s occupation of the city in 1967.

“I was part of it at that day. I wished I didn’t do it, which is occupying Jerusalem,” he said.

Israel occupied East Jerusalem during the 1967 Arab-Israeli War. It annexed the entire city in 1980 in a move never recognized by the international community.

READ: Israeli far-right security minister storms Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa complex