Israeli Police Attack Worshippers at Al-Aqsa Mosque Compound
On Wednesday, Israeli police attacked dozens of worshippers in Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, injuring seven people, according to witnesses. The raid took place before dawn, with Israeli police claiming they were responding to “rioting.” The Palestinian Red Crescent reported injuries but did not elaborate on how many people were hurt. It said in a statement that Israeli forces were preventing its medics from reaching Al-Aqsa.
“I was sitting on a chair reciting (Qur’an),” an elderly woman told Reuters while sitting outside the mosque, struggling to catch her breath. “They hurled stun grenades, one of them hit my chest,” she said as she began to cry.
Israeli police said in a statement that they were forced to enter the compound after “masked agitators” locked themselves inside the mosque with fireworks, sticks, and stones. “When the police entered, stones were thrown at them and fireworks were fired from inside the mosque by a large group of agitators,” the statement said, adding that a police officer was wounded in the leg.
Tension has been high in occupied East Jerusalem and the West Bank for months, and there are fears of further violence as important religious festivals – the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan and the Jewish Passover – converge.
Palestinian groups condemned the latest attacks on worshippers, which they described as a crime. “We warn the occupation against crossing red lines at holy sites, which will lead to a big explosion,” said Nabil Abu Rudeineh, a spokesperson for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
Jordan, which acts as custodian of Jerusalem’s Christian and Muslim holy sites under a status quo arrangement in place since the 1967 war, condemned Israel’s “flagrant” storming of the compound. Egypt’s foreign ministry called for an immediate halt to Israel’s “blatant assault” on Al-Aqsa worshippers.
Confrontations at Al-Aqsa, the third-holiest shrine in Islam and the most sacred site in Judaism – in which it is referred to as the Temple Mount – have sparked deadly cross-border wars between Israel and Gaza’s Hamas rulers in the past, the last being in 2021.
Hamas condemned the latest raid as “an unprecedented crime” and called on Palestinians in the West Bank “to go en masse to the Al-Aqsa mosque to defend it.”
Palestinians see Al-Aqsa as one of the few national symbols over which they retain some element of control. They are, however, fearful of a slow encroachment by Jewish groups akin to what has happened at the Ibrahimi Mosque (Cave of the Patriarchs) in Hebron, where half of the mosque was turned into a synagogue after 1967.
Palestinians are also worried about far-right Israeli movements that want to demolish the Islamic structures in the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound and build a Jewish temple in their place.