South African Palestine solidarity organisation BDS South Africa is seeking answers on whether three South Africans citizens have been arrested by Israeli forces. This follows news reports on Sunday, which states that Israeli soldiers kidnapped at least eleven Palestinians in different parts of the occupied West Bank, and detained three South Africans, in the Al-Aqsa Mosque, in occupied Jerusalem overnight. Five Palestinians were injured in Al-Aqsa courtyards.
Ma’an news agency reported that Israeli forces raided the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in occupied East Jerusalem on Sunday morning, clashing with worshipers, injuring at least 12 Palestinians and detaining at least two Palestinians and two South African nationals, as the Muslim holy month of Ramadan entered its final ten holiest days. It is reported that the Israeli forces also prevented any worshiper below the age of 30 from entering the mosque.
A Capetonian man currently observing itikaaf in the masjid could not confirm the arrest of the South Africans. Ayoob Dadabhay said the situation was tense on Sunday morning, but had settled later in the day.
“It is the first time they sealed off the Al Aqsa compound in the last ten days of Ramadan,” he reported.
BDS South Africa is calling on the South African Ambassador in Tel Aviv, the South African Representative in Ramallah and the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO) to urgently investigate the matter.
“We need to ensure the safety of our South African citizens and that their rights are not being violated. BDS SA has registered its concerns with DIRCO and look forward to receiving relevant feedback,” said Kwara Kekana from BDS SA.
See a video taken by an onlooker: https://www.facebook.com/QudsN/videos/1196301093780123/
Al-Aqsa Compound Director Sheikh Omar al-Kiswani told Ma’an that 12 worshipers were injured with rubber-coated steel bullets, three in the head and the rest in the back and lower extremities.
Al-Kiswani explained that despite the fact that Israel had previously closed the Moroccan Gate, through which Israeli visitors and tourists enter, during the last 10 days of Ramadan for the past 14 years, it was opened today, sparking the clashes.
Al-Kiswani condemned the raids and targeting of worshipers during this period, and held Israeli police responsible for what happened.
Locals said Israeli forces assaulted Al-Aqsa guard Badir Badir, wounding him in the head.
In September 2000 right wing Israeli leader Ariel Sharon together with heavily armed Israeli forces also carried out a provocative tour of the Al Aqsa mosque compound leading to various protests and resulting in violence. According to analysts, the controversial visit was clearly intended to incite and provoke.
Earlier this year, the United Nations cultural heritage body UNESCO, in an adopted resolution, condemned Israel for limiting Palestinian access to Jerusalem’s al-Aqsa mosque compound. The resolution passed with 26 votes for and six against (including the United States, Britain and Germany against). There were 25 abstentions including France. Israeli officials were enraged, with Benjamin Netanyahu calling it “yet another absurd UN decision”.
The UNESCO resolution, diplomats said, also reaffirmed that two holy sites in the Palestinian West Bank (the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron and Rachel’s Tomb in Bethlehem) “are an integral part of Palestine”.
Israel is known to prevent worship by Palestinian Christians and Muslims particularly in Jerusalem. Earlier this year during Easter Palestinian Christians were severly affected by Israeli measures.