Palestine: Israeli settlers storm Al-Aqsa mosque after Israeli police forcibly remove Palestinian worshippers

By Abdelraouf Arnaout

JERUSALEM (AA): Israeli settlers on Thursday forced their way into the Al-Aqsa mosque compound in occupied East Jerusalem.

According to eyewitnesses, police were deployed in the courtyards of the compound to secure the settlers.

Israeli authorities began restricting Palestinians under 40 years old from entering the site before the Muslim morning prayer, the eyewitnesses said.

The measure was met by hundreds of Palestinian young people performing morning prayers in the streets near the mosque.

Israeli police had raided Al-Aqsa mosque on Wednesday evening, forcibly removing worshipers when they surrounded the Al-Qibli Prayer Hall,  went on to the roof of the mosque, smashed some of the windows and initially intervened with sound bombs against the worshipers inside. Some of the people in the mosque tried to resist the police by throwing fireworks. Palestinians barricaded themselves inside the Al-Qibli Prayer Hall in the Al-Aqsa Mosque complex after Jewish settlers called for a raid on the mosque. They attempted to prevent police from entering by closing its doors.

Several settler groups called for incursions into the Al-Aqsa mosque complex to mark the week-long Jewish holiday of Passover, which began on April 5.

Muslim countries condemned the raids by Israeli forces into Al-Aqsa Mosque compound.

Israeli police raids on Al-Aqsa Mosque in occupied East Jerusalem are “unacceptable,” Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Wednesday, calling on Israel to abandon steps that are fueling tensions.

“The intrusions and threats against the sanctity and historical significance of Al-Aqsa Mosque as well as Palestinians’ freedom of religion and life must cease,” Erdogan said in a televised interview.

The spokesman for the Iranian Foreign Ministry Nasser Kanaani, condemning the raid said in a tweet that “such a raid showed Zionists’ criminal nature to the world once again.”

“The attack revealed the regime anti-human rights nature once again,” he added on his Twitter page in Farsi early on Wednesday.

Pakistan and Indonesia on Wednesday strongly condemned the Israeli police raid on Palestinian worshipers at the Al-Aqsa mosque in occupied East Jerusalem, which resulted in injuries and large-scale arrests.

Pakistani Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif in a statement blamed “impunity granted to Israel,” which has “emboldened Tel Aviv to violate basic human rights with abandon.”

“I strongly condemn the Israeli police attack on Palestinian worshipers in Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem. Brutal attack is violative of sanctity of (the) holy month of Ramadan,” Sharif said in a tweet.

Strongly condemning the violence committed by Israeli security forces, the Indonesian Foreign Ministry said in a statement: “This act has really hurt the feelings of Muslims around the world, was a real violation of the sanctity of Al-Aqsa, and will further escalate conflict and violence.”

Joining the growing chorus of criticism, former Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan called on the Organization of Islamic Countries (OIC) to raise the issue with the UN Security Council (UNSC) and the international community.

“Strongly condemn this attack on worshipers in Al-Aqsa Mosque once again during holy month of Ramadan. It’s OIC’s responsibility to inform UNSC and international community that such barbaric acts cause immense hurts to Muslims across the world,” Khan stated in a post he shared on Twitter emblazoned with a picture showing Israeli police personnel standing alert, presumably in the courtyard of the mosque .

Jakarta urged the UN and the international community to “immediately take concrete steps to stop and end the various violations committed by Israel against Al-Aqsa.”

The Saudi Foreign Ministry said in a statement today that the Kingdom “condemns this blatant intrusion and expresses its categorical rejection of these practices that undermine peace efforts and are contrary to international principles and norms that call for respect of religious sanctities.”

It reaffirmed its position in supporting all efforts aimed at ending the Israeli occupation and reaching a just and comprehensive solution to the Palestinian issue.

Egypt in a statement issued by its Foreign Ministry that “such hateful and reprehensible scenes, and repeated Israeli violations of the sanctity of the holy places, fuel feelings of anger among all the Palestinian people and Islamic nation.”

Jordan’s Foreign Minister also strongly condemned the Israeli police storming of Al-Aqsa Mosque and called on Israel “to stop such acts against worshippers, which it said violate international norms, holding Israel fully responsible for any consequences.”

The Arab League on Wednesday called on the UN Security Council to intervene to halt Israeli “crimes” at the Al-Aqsa Mosque complex in occupied East Jerusalem.

In a statement issued following an emergency meeting in Cairo, the Arab League condemned Israeli assaults against worshipers inside Al-Aqsa complex.

“These hundreds of crimes escalated dangerously in the past days of the month of Ramadan, and led to of injuries and arrests of worshipers, incursions and deliberate desecration of the sanctity of Al-Aqsa Mosque by extremist Israeli officials and settlers under the protection of the occupation forces,” it said.

The statement rejected “all forms of Israeli violations of Islamic and Christian holy places, especially those aimed at changing the historical and legal status quo at the Al-Aqsa Mosque.”

The pan-Arab league held Israel responsible for the repercussions of its measures that hinder freedom of worship at Islamic and Christian holy sites in Jerusalem.

It called on the United Nations, including the Security Council, to assume its legal, moral and humanitarian responsibilities for halting the Israeli aggression and providing international protection for the Palestinian people.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau voiced concerns about violence at the Al-Aqsa Mosque complex in East Jerusalem during the holy month of Ramadan.

“We are extremely concerned with the inflamed rhetoric coming out of the Israeli government,” Trudeau said at a public budget announcement.

“It is the holy month of Ramadan and Passover together, and both Israeli and Palestinian families deserve to be able to celebrate in peace and security,” he said.

“We are concerned by the violence around Al-Aqsa Mosque during this holy month. We need to see the Israeli government shifting in its approach,” said Trudeau. “We need to see a de-escalation of violence and people should be living in peace and prosperity in the region.”

The US is “extremely concerned” about tensions around the Al-Aqsa Mosque in occupied East Jerusalem and urged “all sides” to exercise restraint.

“We remain extremely concerned by the continuing violence, and we urge all sides to avoid further escalation,” White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told reports during a news conference.

“It’s imperative, now more than ever, that both Israelis and Palestinians work together to de-escalate this tension and to restore a sense of calm,” he added.

Asked why there was no US condemnation of the Israeli attack on Palestinian worshippers, Kirby responded by saying: “I think we have a very strong track record of speaking out against violence all around the world, and the death and injury caused to people of all faith ”

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is “appalled” by the violence from Israeli forces against worshipers at the Al-Aqsa Mosque complex, his spokesman said Wednesday.

Guterres “is shocked and appalled by the images he saw this morning of the violence and beating by Israeli security forces inside the Al-Qibli Mosque in Jerusalem at a time of the calendar which is holy to Jews, Christians and Muslims,” ​​Stephane Dujarric said at a news conference.

“This should be a time for peace and non-violence,” he said.

Dujarric echoed a statement from UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Tor Wennesland who urged political, religious and community leaders on all sides to reject incitement, inflammatory rhetoric and provocative actions.

Wennesland said leaders should act responsibly and refrain from steps that could escalate tensions.

For Muslims, Al-Aqsa represents Islam’s third-holiest site. Jews call the area the Temple Mount, saying it was the site of two Jewish temples in ancient times.

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

*Writing by Mahmoud Barakat

[Photo: Israeli police raid the Aqaba al-Saraya neighborhood in the Old City of East Jerusalem, on April 05, 2023. Photojournalist :Saeed Qaq/AA]

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