Thursday, May 23, 2024

Israeli troops storm al-Aqsa Mosque, 2nd time in 48 hours

Israeli forces stormed al-Aqsa Mosque early on Sunday, assaulting and blockading Muslim worshippers inside prayer halls and clearing the way for settlers to enter the holy site.

Around 7:00 am local time, hundreds of special forces entered the mosque’s courtyards and began striking Palestinians observing Ramadan with batons in a bid to force them out. There were also reports of stun grenades being deployed.

In the silver-domed Qibli prayer hall, Israeli forces fired teargas at worshippers and blocked them indoors. For more than three hours, dozens of people trapped inside have not been able to evacuate people who sustained minor injuries.

The Palestine Red Crescent Society (PRCS) announced its medics were also prevented from entering the mosque to provide first aid. Inside the Dome of the Rock hall at the centre of mosque’s complex, female worshippers were also blocked in and not allowed to leave.

People trapped inside the Qibli hall pleaded for help using loudspeakers, urging Palestinians to come and protect al-Aqsa Mosque.

Israeli forces reportedly tried to access the sound system room afterwards to cut off the loudspeakers.

Meanwhile, scores of Israelis, protected by heavily-armed forces, stormed the courtyards of the mosque after they had been emptied of Palestinians.

Far-right Israeli activists and settler groups had announced plans to storm al-Aqsa this week in large numbers starting from Sunday to mark the Jewish Passover holiday.

In the Old City outside al-Aqsa, some Palestinian men threw stones at buses carrying Israelis heading to al-Aqsa, lightly injuring five. Israeli forces arrested two people in connection with the incident.

Small Palestinian protests took placed near Lion’s Gate in the Old City as the raid continued.

Before dawn, Israeli forces increased their presence outside al-Aqsa’s gates and imposed restrictions on Palestinians trying to enter the mosque for prayer, eyewitnesses said.

The raid comes 48 hours after another violent attempt by Israeli forces to clear al-Aqsa of Muslim worshippers on Friday.

More than 150 were wounded and at least 450 arrested as Israeli forces fired rubber-coated steel bullets, teargas and stun grenades inside the courtyards and prayer halls of the mosque.

Shiekh Ekrima Sabri, the imam of Al-Aqsa, told Middle East Eye the raid was a “premeditated and orchestrated attack” against Palestinians.

“They want to deter Muslims from coming to the mosque and allow Jewish intruders to storm Al-Aqsa,” the 82-year-old added.

Flanked by the police, settlers enter al-Aqsa Mosque on an almost daily basis, showing complete disregard for the site’s Palestinian Muslim administration and the thousands of worshippers who are usually at the site.

Such raids were often scaled-down and at times cancelled during Muslim holidays, like in the holy month of Ramadan.

However, this has changed in recent years and settlers also began to perform prayer inside the mosque during their incursions which is a violation of the internationally-agreed status quo.

Israel’s control of occupied East Jerusalem, including the Old City, violates several principles under international law, which stipulates that an occupying power has no sovereignty in the territory it occupies and cannot make any permanent changes there.

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