Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Settlers storm Al-Aqsa mosque on Israeli Independence Day


By J.J. Rhies - May 10, 2019
TAGS:
Section: [Main News]
Tags: [al-Aqsa] [Settlers]

 

More than 100 Israeli settlers stormed the Al-Aqsa mosque compound on May 9, accompanied by Israeli police, local media reported.

 

May 9 marks Israeli Independence Day, which is less than one week before the annual Palestinian day of the Nakba, or Catastrophe, commemorating the expulsion of thousands of Palestinians from their homes during the 1948 establishment of Israel.

 

The Jerusalem Islamic Waqf, which is a coordinator of Al-Aqsa, said 137 settlers marched in several groups on the mosque grounds, which is the third holiest site in Islam. Some Jewish rabbis appeared to be leading tours and explaining the history of the site, which Jews refer to as Temple Mount, according to Quds News.

 

On the evening of May 8, Israeli police cancelled a settler event at Al-Aqsa in a historic first, Quds News added.

 

That same evening, however, Israeli security personnel attacked Palestinian worshippers who had been praying at the mosque.

 

Middle East Monitor published video footage of scores of Palestinians fleeing the scene, near Damascus Gate, as Israeli forces fired tear gas and sound grenades into the crowd.

 

No casualties have been reported.

 

On Friday, several thousand Palestinian worshippers will go to Al-Aqsa for evening prayers for the first Friday of the holy month of Ramadan.

 

Palestinian and other Muslim worshippers are routinely subject to violence at Al-Aqsa, and settlers regularly storm the grounds under the protection of Israeli police.

 

Last month, during the Jewish holiday of Passover, or Pesach, hundreds of settlers overtook the holy site.

 

Sheikh Azzam Al-Khatib, general director of the Jerusalem Endowment and Al-Aqsa Mosque Affairs Department, told Jordan News Agency the settlers were there to celebrate Passover, an eight-day Jewish holiday commemorating the liberation of enslaved Jews in Egypt.

 

A 1967 agreement between Israel and Jordan, which is the custodian of the compound, allows Israelis to visit Al-Aqsa. Non-Muslim worship there is strictly forbidden, however.

 

Ma’an News reported at the time that eyewitnesses saw Israeli settlers praying on the site.

 

The Bab al-Rahmeh gate of Al-Aqsa was first closed by Israeli authorities in 2003 after claims were made that the site was being used by an organisation with ties to Hamas.

 

The entrance has seen a spate of openings and closures since then, but Palestinian and other Muslim worshippers have never agreed to stop praying at the site. They say that Israel has no power over the holy grounds.

 

Metal detectors, turnstiles and CCTV cameras were installed at the compound in July 2017 after Palestinian gunmen killed two Israeli Al-Aqsa guards.

 

The installation drew criticism from religious officials and Palestinian government authorities, saying it constituted an attempt by Israel to increase its control over the holy grounds.

 

The surveillance measures were fully removed two months later.

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