Israeli police storm Al-Aqsa mosque, fueling Palestinian resistance

Ahram Online , Wednesday 5 Apr 2023

Israeli police stormed the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem’s Old City early on Wednesday, leading to clashes with Palestinian worshippers and sparking an exchange of rockets and air strikes.

A man holds Palestinian flags as he stands by the fumes from flaming tires during a demonstration along the border with Israel east of Gaza City on April 5, 2023. AFP


Witnesses and medics said the Israeli police used excessive force to remove the worshippers who had closed the gates to the Qibli building in the compound to prevent the police from entering it, according to Palestinian news agency WAFA.

The police then fired tear gas into the building after breaking windows, causing serious cases of suffocation. Medics said police prevented them from entering the compound to help the worshippers, many of whom were detained, beaten or forced to leave. Later, dozens of Jewish settlers stormed the compound after police had forcefully removed most of the Palestinian worshippers.

The violence comes as Muslims mark the holy month of Ramadan and Jews prepare to begin the Passover festival, raising fears of escalation. 

The Israeli military said it attacked two Hamas weapons manufacturing and storage sites in the Gaza Strip on Wednesday morning, following rocket fire from the Strip towards Israel, after Israeli forces raided the Al-Aqsa overnight and fired rubber-coated metal bullets, tear gas, and sound bombs at the worshippers to force them to leave the compound.

The Commission for Detainees and Ex-Detainees Affairs said the occupation forces arrested more than 400 Palestinians during their aggression against Al-Aqsa, before later releasing most of them while ordering many to stay away from Al-Aqsa Mosque compound and the Old City of Jerusalem. The Palestinian Red Crescent said that 50 people were injured. In the occupied West Bank, the Palestinian leadership denounced the attack on the worshippers as a violation that “will lead to a large explosion.”

The foreign ministries of Egypt, Jordan, Turkey, and Saudi Arabia condemned the Israeli raid on the Al-Aqsa, as did the Arab League and the Jordan-controlled Islamic trust that administers the site, known as the Waqf.

​The Arab League said it will hold an emergency meeting on Wednesday afternoon over the Israeli police raid on Al-Aqsa.

Jordan called for the meeting in coordination with Egypt and Palestinian officials. 

Palestinian militant groups Hamas and Islamic Jihad called for Palestinian residents of Jerusalem, the West Bank, and Israel to gather around the Al-Aqsa Mosque and confront Israeli forces. Palestinian officials said the Palestinian Authority was in contact with officials in Egypt, Jordan, the United States, and the United Nations to de-escalate tensions.

Benjamin Netanyahu claimed on Twitter that "Muslim worshippers at the Al-Aqsa Mosque testify that the Muslim extremists who barricaded themselves in the mosque imprisoned them there and prevented other Muslims from coming to the mosque to pray. They barricaded themselves in the mosque with weapons, stones, and fireworks.'

“After the authorities' attempts to negotiate they failed and the extremists refused to allow Muslim worshippers to enter the mosque, and even threatened to hold the noon prayers today, the security forces had to act to restore order," he alleged.

Netanyahu said Israel was working to restore calm following the clashes between police and worshippers at the Al-Aqsa. “Israel is committed to maintaining freedom of worship, free access to all religions, and the status quo and will not allow violent extremists to change that,” he said in a statement.

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