More than 1,700 settlers stormed into the Al-Aqsa mosque compound in Jerusalem on Sunday while thousands of Palestinian Muslim worshipers were praying on the occasion of Eid al-Adha, one of the holiest Islamic holidays of the year. The settlers created a ruckus and disrupted the festive spirit among those who had come there to worship.
Israeli security forces subsequently entered the compound and intervened in support of the extremist, right-wing Israeli settlers. The soldiers used tear gas, sound grenades and rubber-coated steel bullets to ‘disperse’ and attack the Palestinian worshipers and clear out the area for the Jewish settlers. The soldiers also reportedly physically assaulted the worshipers as clashes broke out between them.
The Palestinian Red Crescent reported that 61 Palestinians were injured as a result, 16 out of which were taken to hospital for further treatment. A Palestinian witness told the International Solidarity Movement (ISM) that the soldiers beat up three Palestinians until they were covered in blood before arresting them, and also beat up an elderly Palestinian man. The Red Crescent also reported that one man is suffering from a broken jaw.
Firas al-Dibs, a spokesperson for Jerusalem’s religious endowments authority, said, “Since the morning, over 1,729 Jewish settlers have entered the compound.” He also said that the “settler incursions” were backed by Israeli police officers and that the Palestinians who were injured were the ones who had blocked the gates to prevent the Jewish settlers from entering the mosque compound. Israeli police said that four police officers received injuries and that they arrested seven Palestinians after the clashes.
Widely known as the ‘Temple Mount’ groups, the groups of right-wing Israeli Jewish settlers that stormed the compound advocate the destruction of the Al Aqsa mosque and the construction of a Jewish temple in its place. Settler groups have long demanded that the Israeli government allow Jewish visitors to travel to the site where the purported temple was situated. This year, the festival of Eid coincided with the Jewish holiday of Tisha B’Av.
Hanan Ashrawi, a member of the executive committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), condemned the Israeli excesses, saying, “The storming of Al Aqsa Mosque Compound in Jerusalem by Israeli occupation forces this Eid morning is an act of recklessness and aggression, designed to provoke religious and political tensions in the city and across Palestine. We condemn this aggression, which is reprehensible and dangerous and hold the Israeli political establishment fully responsible for its grave consequences.”
Ashrawi also pointed out that Israeli politicians are competing to “exhibit higher levels of aggression” against Palestinians to score political points during the ongoing election season. She urged the international community to “confront this belligerence and intervene to stop any further deterioration in Jerusalem”.
A statement issued by the Palestinian Authority, quoting president Mahmoud Abbas, said, “President Abbas salutes our people in Jerusalem for their steadfastness in the face of the occupation schemes that seek to change the status quo at Al-Aqsa Mosque as an only Muslim holy place, calling for urgent international and Arab intervention in order to curb the aggression and Israeli arrogance and force Israel as an occupying power to stop its actions and practices in Jerusalem and Al-Aqsa. We warn the Israeli government against continuing to allow settlers to carry out these crimes and we warn against turning the political conflict into a religious one that could burn everything in its way.”