Jerusalem24 – Mohammad Hamayel – Mona Hijjawi – After Mecca and Medina, the vast majority of Muslims worldwide consider Jerusalem the third holiest place on Earth. Jerusalem and its sacred places, specifically Al-Aqsa and the Dome of the Rock, have remained sites of Islamic pilgrimage for 15 centuries. Given its sacred significance, this site represents a conflict whenever Israel tries to control it.
Certain ultra-Orthodox Jewish groups controversially advocate for greater access and control of the site, seeking to reclaim the so called “historic Temple Mount”, in order to rebuild the Temple.
Described as “the most sensitive site in the Israel-Palestinian conflict,” it has frequently been hosted to political acts.
On Sept. 28, 2000, Israeli opposition leader Ariel Sharon and a delegation guarded by hundreds of Israeli riot police entered the precinct. This sparked protests and a violent crackdown by Israeli authorities, with multiple casualties. Many Muslims worldwide considered this a “desecration” of the sacred mosque, and the event helped ignite the Second Intifada, or Palestinian uprising.
In 2017, Israeli extremist Rabbi, Yehuda Glick organized a march into the alAqsa mosque; leading 135 settlers into the mosque. This happened the same day that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gave authorization for Knesset members to storm the alAqsa Mosque.
Netanyahu issued an order prohibiting members of the Knesset from entering Al-Aqsa Mosque in October 2015, since the outbreak of an uprising in Jerusalem. In July of the same year, he temporarily lifted the ban following a legal petition by far-right Knesset member Yehuda Glick.
In protest to the ban Yehuda Glick organised a raid at Al-Aqsa Mosque in which 135 right-wing Israelis stormed the compound under the protection of Israeli police while Glick performed prayers outside the holy site’s gates.
This decision was made after security considerations determined that the storming of Al-Aqsa by Israeli groups, including ministers and MKs, are a major factor in provoking Palestinians.
Since the beginning of 2021, Israeli settlers have increased their activity in the city of Jerusalem; particularly around the alAqsa Mosque. What used to be tens and dozens of settlers entering the Islamic Holy Site, has reached a few hundred on a nearly daily basis.
Israeli police have worked on forcing Palestinian worshippers out of the alAqsa, until today, July 18th. Palestinians all across Jerusalem and Israel answered calls to confront settlers who were planning to march through the Old City and into the alAqsa in commemoration of the “ruins of the First Temple.” The early hours of the morning as well as the night before witnessed intense confrontations between Palestinians standing at the Damascus Gate where Israeli forces installed metal barricades, and prevented Palestinians from gathering there.
Sheikh Omar alKiswani, the manager of the alAqsa Mosque grounds, spoke to the Al-Qastal, saying “Since yesterday, Israeli imposed a cordon on the alAqsa Mosque, since yesterday’s evening prayers until the dawn prayers, preventing those under the age of forty from entering the blessed Al-Aqsa Mosque, and this prohibition included journalists from entering to keep the whole world from seeing these violations.” He continued, speaking about the closure on the mosque saying, “This closure continues, and worshipers under the age of forty are prevented until three o’clock, that is, after the extremists have finished their storming of Al-Aqsa Mosque and desecrating its squares and doing whatever they like without accountability or supervision.”
Alkiswani added that, “this is done by the occupation forces by force of arms. It does not give any right to these extremists nor to the occupation government in what they are doing inside the blessed Al-Aqsa Mosque.” He concludes that, “we hold the occupying government fully responsible for the reactions regarding these violations.”
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), recognized the alAqsa Mosque as an Islamic site in decision “C 148 rev.” The resolution calls on Israel to halt its unilateral procedures at the alAqsa Mosque and in the Old City and its walls.