Israeli forces raided the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in occupied East Jerusalem on Sunday morning and assaulted Muslim worshipers, as extremist Jewish Israelis were allowed to tour the holy site, with a Fatah official condemning the incident as “an extension of Israel’s fascist and aggressive policies against Palestinian people.”
At least three Palestinians were injured from the Israeli police beating, several others suffered from pepper spray and tear gas inhalation, and two Palestinians were also detained from the compound. The incident came as Palestinians in occupied East Jerusalem were being subjected to “collective punishment” measures following a deadly attack in front of the Old City two days ago, in which three Palestinians were shot dead after conducting an attack that left on Israeli policewoman killed.
Director of the Al-Aqsa Mosque Sheikh Omar Kiswani told Ma’an that some 250 Israeli soldiers had stormed the compound through the Moroccans’ Gate entrance and allowed “Israeli settlers” to enter. Israeli forces stationed at the doors of the compound’s main mosque, the al-Qibli mosque, started to prevent Muslim worshipers from leaving the building, and subsequently began violently beating them and also fired rubber-coated steel bullets and tear gas.
Kiswani said that the Israeli special forces detained two Palestinians, who he described as “youths,” adding that several suffered from being pepper sprayed, and three Palestinians were badly bruised after being beaten with batons.
Kiswani said he held the Israeli government responsible for the escalation of violence amid the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, by allowing the extremist Israelis to conduct the provocative tour around the mosque.
Azzam Khatib, the director of the Islamic endowment (Waqf) that manages Al-Aqsa, told Ma’an that Israeli police had suddenly decided on Saturday night to allow Israeli settlers and tourists to tour the site, noting that Israeli police usually close the gate for the last ten days of Ramadan, as the days are particularly sacred to Muslims.
However, this time last year, Israeli authorities also permitted access for Israelis and foreigners to the site, causing clashes to erupt almost daily.
Following Israeli annexation of East Jerusalem in 1967 Israel has maintained a compromise with the Islamic trust that controls the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound to not allow non-Muslim prayers in the area. Israeli forces nonetheless regularly escort Jewish visitors to the site, leading to tension with Palestinian worshipers.
Israeli police spokeswoman Luba al-Samri said in a statement Sunday that “regular visitations of foreigners and non-Muslims to the Al-Aqsa mosque compound were conducted and ended today in accordance with regularly followed procedures, amid attempts by extremist Muslims to thwart the visitations.”
She confirmed that two “suspects” were detained, claiming they had assaulted police officers and “caused disorder,” and were being interrogated at a police station inside the Old City. She said their detentions were expected to be extended.
According to al-Samri, an unspecified number of Israeli police officers were “provided with medical care after sustaining light injuries during their work during the visitations.”
Munir al-Jaghoub, who heads the Fatah movement’s media office, released a statement Sunday afternoon, saying that “praying at Al-Aqsa is the natural right for Palestinians and all Muslims, and the prevention of (Muslim) prayer at the mosque is an extension of Israel’s fascist and aggressive policies against Palestinian people.”
He insisted on the necessity of “facing the Israeli occupation’s suppressive policies and remaining determined that Jerusalem is a fundamental site of the Palestinian fight against the occupation.”
He stressed that Palestinian Jerusalemites suffering from arbitrary detentions at the hands of Israeli forces and the denial of their right to worship was “a reflection of Israeli racism, and refutes the Israeli government’s claims that it respects the right of believers to access Islamic and Christian holy sites.”
He demanded that the international community and human rights organizations “break their silence towards the violations of the occupation government,” and to force Israel to “end its fascist policies against Jerusalem and its holy sites.”
[Source: Ma’an news agency]