Socialist Worker

Israel backs down from Al Aqsa clampdown

by Tomáš Tengely-Evans
Issue No. 2565

Solidarity protest in Nottingham

Solidarity protest in Nottingham (Pic: Richard Buckwell)


Mass protests last Friday forced Israeli forces to reopen the Al Aqsa mosque to all worshippers.

The mosque compound, in occupied East Jerusalem, was closed off last month as part of a fresh Israeli crackdown on Palestinians in the West Bank.

Israeli security forces then installed metal detectors.

Thousands refused to go through the security checks. They prayed on the streets outside in protest.

Israel removed the security devices on Thursday of last week fearing a mass demonstration during evening prayers the following Friday.

It partially opened the mosque to worshippers over the age of 50 on Friday lunchtime. But this partial concession spurred further opposition.

Some 10,000 came to pray at the mosque and in the streets outside.

Israeli border troops were still blocking the Huta Gate, one of its main entrances.Troops then fired stun grenades and rubber bullets into the crowd—including inside the compound.

But the numbers forced Israel to fully reopen the mosque by last Friday evening.

Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu is trying to play a longer game, preparing for a potential clash in the Gaza Strip.

The West Bank is run by the Fatah faction and the Gaza Strip by its rival Hamas.

Egyptian dictator Abdel Fatah el-Sisi is manoeuvring to install Mohammed Dahlan as prime minister in Gaza.

After Hamas won elections in 2006, Dahlan tried to stage a coup on behalf of Fatah with US and Israeli backing. He now leads opposition within Fatah to the ailing Palestinian Authority (PA) president Mahmoud Abbas.

Abbas, who has failed to lead resistance to the occupation, is discredited among many ordinary Palestinians.

Israel is increasingly worried that Abbas will not be able to keep a lid on resistance.

But Dahlan has also made populist noises about ending security cooperation with Israel in the West Bank.

Netanyahu’s concession has caused a right wing backlash from Israeli politicians.

Education minister Naftali Bennett said, “Every time that Israel strategically caves, we get an intifada.”

Netanyahu tried to appease Bennett and her allies with talk of a new clampdown.

He promised the death penalty for a Palestinian who killed three Israelis last week.

Israel has only used the death penalty once before—against Adolf Eichman, a Nazi SS officer and key architect of the Holocaust.

Around 200 worshippers and Palestinian supporters took to the Forest Recreation Ground in Nottingham last week in a show of solidarity.

Activists also joined a solidarity protest in Birmingham.

Palestinians will need our continuing solidarity.


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