May 19, 2024

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Occupation police storm Al-Aqsa Mosque during Ramadan prayers, which led to rockets being fired from Gaza

Occupation police storm Al-Aqsa Mosque during Ramadan prayers, which led to rockets being fired from Gaza

(CNN) Israeli Police stormed Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, one of the holiest sites in Islam, during Ramadan prayers at dawn on Wednesday, arresting hundreds of Palestinians and firing rockets in retaliation from activists in Gaza.

Footage circulating on social media showed Israeli officers beating people screaming with batons inside the darkened building. Witnesses told CNN that police broke doors and windows to enter the mosque and deployed stun grenades and rubber bullets as soon as one entered. A video shared by the Israeli police shows troops holding riot shields as fireworks are fired at them, bouncing off walls.

The occupation police said in a statement that its forces entered Al-Aqsa after “hundreds of rioters and mosque desecrators” were barricaded inside it.

“When the police entered, they threw stones at them, and fireworks were fired from inside the mosque by a large group of agitators,” the statement said.

The Palestinian Red Crescent in Jerusalem said at least 12 people were wounded during clashes in and around the mosque, and at least three of the injured were taken to hospital, some of them hit by rubber bullets.

The Red Crescent added that its ambulances were once targeted by the police and prevented from reaching the wounded.

The incident drew condemnation from across the Arab and Islamic world. The Jordanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs condemned the actions of the Israeli police in the “strongest terms”, and called on Israel to immediately remove its forces from the mosque. Jordan also called for an extraordinary meeting of the League of Arab States to discuss the developments.

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For its part, the Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs denounced the police’s “storming” of the mosque, saying that it caused “numerous injuries among worshipers and worshipers” and “contradicts all international laws and norms.”

Police said they arrested and deported more than 350 people in the mosque, and that an Israeli police officer was hit in the leg with stones.

Pictures spread on social media showed dozens of detainees lying face down on the floor of the mosque with their legs and arms tied behind their backs, and others with their hands tied being taken away in a car.

Al-Aqsa Mosque witnessed hundreds of thousands of worshipers performing prayers during the holy month of Ramadan this year. Jews are scheduled to celebrate Passover on Wednesday evening.

‘A major crime against worshipers’

Over the past two weeks, there have been calls by ultra-Orthodox groups for goats to be slaughtered in the mosque compound as part of an ancient Passover ritual no longer practiced by most Jews. And a larger number of Muslim worshipers remained in the mosque after calls came to prevent such attempts.

Last week, a Palestinian was shot and killed by Israeli police at the entrance to the compound. Palestinian and Israeli sources questioned the circumstances that led to the death of Muhammad al-Osaibi, 26 years old.

The mosque complex, often a flashpoint in tensions, is home to one of Islam’s most revered but also Judaism’s holiest sites, known as the Temple Mount.

The complex was reopened for prayer soon after.

In a statement on Wednesday, Palestinian Prime Minister Muhammad Shtayyeh condemned the actions of the Israeli police, saying: “What is happening in Jerusalem is a major crime against worshipers.”

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Shtayyeh added, “Israel does not want to learn from history that Al-Aqsa is for the Palestinians and for all Arabs and Muslims, and its storming sparked a revolution against the occupation.”

Aviv Bochinsky, a former media advisor to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, told CNN that positions affecting Israel’s security may unite a divided nation, but said he was unlikely to be the motive for Israel’s storming of the Al-Aqsa mosque.

Buczynski added that he believes it is in Netanyahu’s interest to ease tensions

Buchinsky said that the average Israeli would not, however, support any extreme Israeli measures against the Palestinians in Jerusalem because that would be “too risky”.

“I think it is in the interest of Netanyahu and even Ben Gvir to try to reduce tensions at Al-Aqsa Mosque,” he said. “Because when there is a rupture there, it affects the entire Arab world, and we feel it.”

Gaza rockets

The Israeli military said on Wednesday that nine rockets were fired from the Gaza Strip towards Israel after the incident in Jerusalem.

“Following the issuance of the previous report regarding the sirens that sounded in Sderot, five rockets were fired from the Gaza Strip into Israeli territory,” the Israeli army said. Four of them were intercepted by the air defense system.

The IDF also said that four additional rockets were fired from Gaza towards Israel, but that they landed in an open space.

The Israeli army added, “Following the sound of additional warning sirens in the vicinity of the Gaza Strip, four rockets were fired from the Gaza Strip, which landed in open areas, and no interceptor missiles were launched, according to protocol.”

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Ismail Haniyeh, a leader in the Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas), said in a statement that “the current Israeli occupation crimes in Al-Aqsa Mosque are unprecedented violations that will not pass.”

Later on Wednesday, the Israeli military said its fighter jets bombed weapons manufacturing and storage sites in the Gaza Strip belonging to Hamas.

“This strike came in response to the earlier firing of rockets from the Gaza Strip towards Israeli territory,” it added in a statement.

“We will strike anyone who tries to harm us, and impose a heavy price that will make him regret threatening Israeli citizens or IDF forces,” Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said on Wednesday.

Last year was the deadliest For Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and for Israelis in nearly two decades, CNN’s analysis of official statistics has shown it on both sides.

This year has also seen a violent start. At least 90 Palestinians have been killed, according to statistics from the Palestinian Ministry of Health. In addition to the suspected militants being targeted by Israeli forces, among the dead were Palestinians who killed, injured or attempted to kill Israeli civilians, and people clashed with Israeli security and bystanders, according to CNN records.

In the same period, at least 15 Israelis were killed in attacks by Palestinians in Israel and the West Bank, according to CNN records — 14 civilians and a police officer were wounded by friendly fire after a Palestinian teenager stabbed them while searching a passenger bus.