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Israel injures dozens, arrests hundreds in brutal raid on Al-Aqsa Mosque

Jerusalem24 Noelle Mafarjeh and Nadeen Alshaer – Israeli riot police stormed Al-Qibli prayer hall in the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in the old city of occupied East Jerusalem in the early hours of this morning, assaulting and arresting Palestinian worshippers who had barricaded themselves inside in preparation for a planned Israeli settler invasion on the first day of Passover.

A number of worshippers had also remained on the premises overnight in order to perform Itikaf, a non-compulsory practice for Muslims to remain in the mosque overnight, praying or reciting the Quran, during the holy month of Ramadan.

Riot police beat the worshippers with batons and rifles and shot them with rubber-coated metal bullets, and fired tear gas and sound bombs inside the mosque and in the courtyards of Al-Aqsa Mosque, injuring at least 50 worshippers including seven by rubber-coated metal bullets, according to Red Crescent spokesman Murad Abbasi.

The Red Crescent Society issued a statement saying Israeli forces prevented its crews from entering the mosque to treat the injured, and also assaulted a member of its crew.

According to Firas Al-Jibrini, a lawyer for the Wadi Hilweh Information Center in Jerusalem, most of the injuries were recorded in the upper parts of the body, injuries to the head, eyes, jaw, and fractures in the back and neck.

Al-Jibrini told Jerusalem24’s sister station 24FM that the assault began around 11:30 PM on Tuesday night “without any provocation”. Al-Jibrini said up to 500 worshippers were detained and transferred on buses to the Atarot detention center in occupied East Jerusalem.

Numerous photos and videos of the Israeli police violence at Al-Aqsa were flagged on social media as “sensitive content” and “hidden”.

The warning label placed by Twitter over a video of Israeli police beating Palestinian worshippers. Captured 5 April 2023.

Quoting Israeli media, Jerusalem24 correspondent Reema Mustafa in Jerusalem said that Egyptian and Jordanian authorities are pressuring their Israeli counterparts to “deescalate” the situation and violence.

“A scene I can’t describe”

Eyewitness Fahmi Abbas, a worshipper who inside the Al-Aqsa courtyards when the assault happened, told Al Jazeera the forces attacked worshippers in several locations across the compound, including the yard, firing tear gas and stun grenades.

“It was a scene that I can’t describe,” Abbas said. “Then they stormed in [the Al-Qibli mosque] and started beating everyone and they detained people, and they put the young men on their faces to the ground. They also beat them while they were being detained.”

Palestinian youth Maher Hijazi, who suffered a head injury during the invasion, told Al-Qastal:

“We were in the Qibli mosque when the Israeli police stormed and brutally assaulted everyone. They were brutally hitting us in the face and head areas with sticks and the butts of their weapons. The paramedics rushed to help me, but the police prevented them and dragged me.”

“They arrested a huge number of worshippers and youth and led us to buses, every 50 in a bus, with our hands tied. I asked them to make it looser because it hurt my wrists and they refused.”

“They took us to the detention center and sat us on a wet floor. It was crowded, and they took our fingerprints, and banned us from entering Al-Aqsa.”

Israeli police: the Palestinians are the “mosque desecrators”

In a thread on Twitter, the Israeli police claimed the incident was the result of “incitement” by “terrorist organizations” on social media, and that they were “forced” to invade the mosque to clear it of “rioters and Mosque desecrators”, in order to “allow” Muslim worshippers to perform the Fajr prayer.

However, following the arrests and Fajr prayer, Israeli forces once again stormed the courtyards of Al-Aqsa and forcefully dispersed worshippers performing prayers, in order to secure an incursion by Israeli settlers.

Jerusalemite youth movements, activists, and clerics had been calling on Jerusalemites and Palestinians to gather and be present in Al-Aqsa Mosque on Wednesday to stop planned incursions of Israeli settlers on the first day of the Jewish Passover holiday, after Jewish extremist groups, including rabbis, announced their intention of bringing animal offerings into the courtyards of the Al-Aqsa Mosque to sacrifice.

At least one Israeli settler was detained by Israeli police today for attempting to bring a lamb for slaughter into the compound. Extremist settler group “Return to the Mount” offers cash rewards to any settler arrested trying to smuggle in an animal for sacrifice, and an even greater reward of up $3,000 to anyone who succeeds in performing a sacrifice.

Extremist settler groups call to invade Al-Aqsa every year on the occasion of Passover.

Detentions and ban orders

Lawyer Al-Jibrini told Quds News Network around midday on Wednesday that out of the over 400 arrested, around 20 detainees will see their detention extended, and some were expected to be transferred to prisons cells during the day.

Jerusalemite teenager Abdallah Jaber, who was arrested and released, told Middle East Eye and Quds News Network that they were forced to sign papers banning them from Al-Aqsa for a week as a condition of their release. Abdallah says they were instructed to visit another detention center later in order to sign new orders banning them from Al-Aqsa “from seven months to a year”.

“Preemptive” arrests: Jerusalem purged of activists ahead of Passover

On Monday, two days ahead of the planned settler incursions, Israeli police carried out a campaign of arrests among known Palestinian Jerusalemite activists – a scenario that repeats each year ahead of the Jewish holidays.

Alaa Al-Sous, a Jerusalemite activist, was arrested after Israeli forces stormed her home in the town of Beit Hanina in occupied East Jerusalem

Al-Sous is widely known for her activism and has been a source of valid information for media outlets and social media users. Al-Sous has been assaulted multiple times by Israeli forces in Jerusalem while covering the events on her Instagram page, and suffered a broken arm after Israeli police attacked her inside of Al-Aqsa Mosque during the May 2021 Ramadan events.

“Let me see if I can find someone; they’ve all been arrested.”

Al-Sous was released on Tuesday and put under house arrest, and prohibited from using social media. Palestinian media reported that Al-Sous was fined over 40,000 shekels and banned from entering Al-Aqsa mosque. Her Instagram page has been suspended since her arrest on Monday.

Several other activists including Mamoun Al-Abassi, Ahmad Ghazaleh, Mahmoud Shawish, and Mohammad Al-Bakri, were arrested and released under similar conditions, including fines, a ban from Al-Aqsa Mosque or the old city of Jerusalem, or a ban on using the internet.

When Jerusalem24 contacted Jerusalemite activist Adnan Barq and asked him to put us in touch with activists in the old city, he told us: “Let me see if I can find someone; they’ve all been arrested.”

Palestinian (and Israeli) response

After the attack at Al-Aqsa, marches have been taking place in several locations in the occupied West Bank, including east Jerusalem, the Gaza Strip, and inside Israel, in protest at the police invasion.

Confrontations also erupted in several locations across the occupied West Bank including East Jerusalem.

A number of Palestinians suffered from tear gas inhalation during confrontations with the Israeli army in Beita south of Nablus this morning, with Red Crescent crews treating 12 cases of tear gas inhalation according to Red Crescent director in Nablus Ahmed Jibril.

In Al-Aroub refugee camp near Hebron, a Palestinian youth was injured in the leg by live ammunition and others suffered from tear gas inhalation.

Confrontations are ongoing this afternoon in Tulkarem and Abu Dis.

Palestinian gunmen have also shot at Israeli military targets in response. Shots were fired at Israeli soldiers stationed at the military checkpoint “300” near Bethlehem this morning, near a military post in Jenin, and in Beit Ummar near Hebron overnight.

According to Israeli news outlet Walla, three Israeli soldiers have been injured in shooting attacks in the occupied West Bank in the past 24 hours, including in Beit Ummar near Hebron.

In response to the Al-Aqsa invasion, 16 rockets were fired from Gaza towards Israel, most of which were intercepted by the Iron Dome or fell in open areas. One rocket landed in a factory in Sderot and caused light damage. The Israeli military launched several airstrikes on Gaza, with material damage but no injuries reported.

Following Israel’s targeting of Gaza, far-right extremist and Israeli Minister of National Security Itamar Ben-Gvir called for killing Gazans on Twitter:

“The government of which I am a member should respond strongly to the rocket fire from Gaza. Hamas rockets necessitate a response beyond the bombing of sand dunes and uninhabited sites. It’s time for heads to roll in Gaza.”

No more condemnations

Maan News Agency announced this morning on its website that it would no longer be publishing any “condemnation” statements following Al-Aqsa Mosque intrusions because “they do not do anything for our audience, except unsettling their spirits and degrading the Palestinian struggle.”

“Denunciation is not news, and condemnation has become news that is denounced by the readership,” wrote Maan Editor-in-Chief Nasser Al-Lahham. “Any leader who wants to denounce or condemn can publish their story on their Facebook page, and that is enough.”

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