Israeli forces attacked Palestinian worshippers in the occupied city of Jerusalem twice over the weekend, as they gathered during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. The attacks come almost a year after similar raids sparked an uprising across all of Palestine.
Israeli border police stormed the site of the Al Aqsa mosque on Sunday, in the east of occupied Jerusalem. They used tear gas and rubber-coated steel bullets to clear Palestinians from the large square inside the mosque’s compound. It came after an even bigger raid on Friday of last week when Israeli police arrested as many as 300 Palestinians at the mosque all at once. They also injured at least 158 people.
The Islamic endowment that runs the site said Israeli police entered in force before dawn on Friday, as thousands of worshippers gathered for early morning prayers. Videos show Palestinians fighting back heroically, throwing rocks at the heavily armed cops and barricading themselves inside the mosque. The Palestinian Red Crescent medical charity said Israeli forces also hindered the arrival of ambulances and paramedics to the site.
Israel said the raids were meant to ensure that Jewish worshippers—who also consider the site holy—could enter during the Passover holiday. They, and many media reports in Britain, want to present the fighting as an issue of Palestinian Muslims’ hostility to Israeli Jews. It is actually about whether Palestinians can live freely in their own city.
Israel invaded and occupied the eastern side of Jerusalem in 1967. Though it later declared the entire city its capital, it denies the Palestinians who live there full citizenship rights. It has used a raft of laws that can remove a Palestinian’s right to live in the city to push them out gradually.
Meanwhile Israeli settler groups, backed by the state, run years-long campaigns to evict Palestinians and take over their homes and neighbourhoods. Battles over access to the mosque are about control of a site central to Palestinian life in the city. The compound is still managed by an authority based in neighbouring Jordan, but Israeli settler groups want to claim it and deny Palestinian access altogether.
Right wing settler groups use Ramadan and Passover to stage provocative stunts and invasions at the site. Last week a settler group offered a cash prize to anyone who entered the Mosque and sacrificed a goat—a Jewish religious ritual that is prohibited inside. Palestinians at the mosque prepared to resist incursions by Israeli settlers and police.
Attacks on Palestinians in east Jerusalem last April triggered a mass uprising. Israeli cops cracked down on protesters resisting the eviction of Palestinian families in the neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah. They then tried to stop Palestinians from coming to Al Aqsa mosque to pray. After Palestinians fought back, resistance spread across all areas of historic Palestine, including a historic general strike.
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