THE appalling Israeli raid on the Al Aqsa mosque premises on Friday morning deserves to be condemned in the strongest possible terms. Disturbing videos of the incident show Israeli security men inside the prayer halls of the sacred sanctuary, as worshippers try to protect themselves from the onslaught. Over 150 Palestinians were reportedly injured in the violence. This grim incident seems to be a repeat of the events of May 2021, when the Israelis stormed the mosque also during the holy month of Ramazan. Unfortunately, desecration of the mosque by Israeli security men and rabidly anti-Arab Zionists seems to have become a recurring feature. The latest raid comes amidst an uptick in deadly violence in the occupied territories, particularly the West Bank. Though the Israelis say they moved in to prevent Palestinians throwing stones at a Jewish holy site, tension at the site had been brewing for a while as extremist Jewish groups had been calling for raiding of the mosque during Passover.
The imam of Al Aqsa has described the brutal Israeli raid as a “premeditated and orchestrated attack” while the Palestinian presidency has termed it a “declaration of war”. Of course, passions around the sacred site should not be underestimated, because it was a provocative visit by late Israeli leader Ariel Sharon in 2000 that sparked the second Intifada. The main problem appears to be hard-line Jewish groups that stage aggressive visits to the holy sanctuary, especially during sensitive religious periods. Often shouting inflammatory anti-Muslim and anti-Arab slogans, the extremists are accompanied by Israeli police, and if the Palestinians react to the incitement, violence is the natural outcome. What creates an absolutely explosive situation is that many of these groups — with a number of them having supporters within the Israeli government — call for the destruction of Al Aqsa and the building of the ‘Third Temple’. These extremists must be reined in and official Israeli patronage of the provocative raids must end to prevent triggering a new cycle of violence.
Published in Dawn, April 18th, 2022