Israeli forces attack worshippers inside Al-Aqsa Mosque, over 500 arrested

Israeli police detaining Palestinians at Al-Aqsa Mosque. [Photo: Palestinian News & Information Agency WAFA]

Israeli forces attacked and arrested Palestinian worshippers in a violent dawn raid on the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in occupied East Jerusalem, international media reported.

Police claimed they had “arrested and removed over 350 individuals that violently barricaded” themselves inside the mosque in the Old City of annexed East Jerusalem.

However, witnesses put the number at over 500, who were arrested and taken in for questioning, according to Reuters.

The incident, during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan and on the eve of the Jewish Passover, came amid fears that tensions built up during a year of escalating violence could be unleashed at the Al-Aqsa mosque, where clashes in 2021 set off a 10-day war in Gaza.

The raids continued until Wednesday morning when Israeli forces were once again seen assaulting and pushing Palestinians out of the mosque compound and preventing them from praying, before Israelis were allowed in under police protection.

“I was sitting on a chair reciting [the Quran],” an elderly woman told the Reuters news agency 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.

The incident drew a sharp reaction from Arab countries. Jordan and Egypt, both involved in recent US backed efforts to de-escalate tensions between Israel and the Palestinians, issued separate statements strongly condemning the incident, while Saudi Arabia, with whom Israel hopes to normalize ties, said Israel’s “storming” of Al-Aqsa undermined peace efforts.

Meanwhile, the State of Palestine condemned in the strongest terms the brutal attacks of Israeli occupation forces against Palestinian worshippers at the holy Aqsa Mosque Compound/Al-Haram Al-Sharif; according to a statement by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates.

It said that the Israeli occupation forces illegally invaded Al Aqsa, barbarically assaulted men, women, and children, unlawfully detained over 500 worshippers, prevented ambulances from attending to hundreds of injured worshippers, causing irreparable damage to the Mosque, including by causing a fire.

“Palestine reaffirms that Israel, its officials, occupation forces, and settler terrorist militias, have no sovereignty whatsoever over any part of Al-Aqsa Mosque Compound,” it said.

“Palestinian worshippers have the absolute right to freely and safely pray in and around the holy compound, whenever and at any time, without any obstruction or violence.”

The Foreign Ministry said Israel’s aggression against the holy Al-Aqsa Mosque Compound is an egregious assault on the basic right of Palestinians to worship freely in their holy sites, especially during this holy month of fasting and religious introspection.

“In grave violation of the tenets of international law, Israel, the occupying Power, is imposing arbitrary limitations on when and how Palestinians can worship while inviting and encouraging settlers to carry out highly provocative and illegal daily raids of the holy site,” it said.

“Such systematic Israeli actions of brutalization and deliberate provocation reflect the occupier’s messianic drive to provoke and initiate a religious confrontation. They must be confronted and stopped by all responsible international actors.”

The Ministry stressed that the international community is obligated to hold Israel and its officials accountable for their crimes, and called on the United Nations Security Council “to urgently devise effective measures to ensure the protection of worshippers and the full respect for the historic and legal status quo at Al-Aqsa Mosque.”

The Palestinian people will continue to exercise their right to defend Jerusalem, its mosques and churches, from Israel’s ongoing aggression, it stressed.

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