Israeli police lock Palestinians in mosque at Al-Aqsa compound before far-right flag march

Published May 29, 2022
Israelis dance with flags by Damascus gate just outside Jerusalem's Old City. —Reuters
Israelis dance with flags by Damascus gate just outside Jerusalem's Old City. —Reuters
Palestinians burn a representation of an Israeli flag during a protest over tensions in Jerusalem's Al-Aqsa Mosque, in Khan Younis, in the southern Gaza Strip, Sunday. —Reuters
Palestinians burn a representation of an Israeli flag during a protest over tensions in Jerusalem's Al-Aqsa Mosque, in Khan Younis, in the southern Gaza Strip, Sunday. —Reuters

Israeli police faced off with Palestinians holed up inside Jerusalem's Al-Aqsa mosque on Sunday as hundreds of Jews visited the holy compound ahead of a contentious Jewish nationalist march through the heart of the Old City.

The annual Jerusalem procession celebrates Israel's capture of the Old City in the 1967 Middle East war and draws thousands of cheering, chanting participants to its narrow, stone streets.

Palestinian factions have warned that the flag-waving parade through the city's Muslim quarter could re-ignite their decades-old conflict with Israelis. Tensions have been rising in the city for weeks.

Hours before the procession was due to kick off, police locked some Palestinians inside a mosque on the Al-Aqsa compound as Jewish visitors arrived for daily tours of the compound, which is revered by both Muslims and Jews.

Al Jazeera reported that Israeli forces occupied the rooftop of the al-Qibli prayer hall in the compound on Sunday morning and besieged the worshippers inside it to enable the passage of settlers to go unhindered.

Their correspondent, Najwan Simri, said the Israelis had prevented Palestinian journalists and photographers from entering Al-Aqsa Mosque and threatened them with arrest.

Rubber bullets had also been fired at Palestinian protesters in the compound, in an effort to disperse them. Ten were reportedly injured.

The Palestinian Red Crescent Society said that the settlers attacked an ambulance crew affiliated with it in the Old City while they were trying to reach an injured person in al-Wad neighbourhood.

Palestinians threw stones and shot fireworks towards police, who responded with stun grenades.

Among the Jewish visitors were a dozen or so young men, wearing religious garb, who smiled, sang and clapped in the direction of the protesters. Other Jews were later seen holding up Israeli flags.

The Islamist group Hamas, which governs the Gaza Strip, condemned videos posted online suggesting that Jews had prayed at the site, in violation of a long-standing ban.

"The Israel government is fully responsible for all these irresponsible policies and the following consequences," senior Hamas official Bassem Naim told Reuters.

In recent years Hamas has cast itself as a defender of Muslim Jerusalem. After weeks of tension last year over Palestinian evictions in the city, Hamas fired rockets into Israel during the nationalist march, triggering an 11-day war that killed at least 250 Palestinians in Gaza and 13 people in Israel.

No change

Despite calls for a rethink of the march from some of his own coalition allies, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has refused to countenance any changes.

"The flag parade will be held as usual according to the planned route, as it has been for decades," his office said on Friday, adding that it would review the situation regularly through the coming hours.

Israel sees all of Jerusalem as its eternal and indivisible capital, while Palestinians want the eastern section as capital of their future state. Hamas, deemed a terrorist organisation by Western governments, sees all of modern-day Israel as occupied.

For Palestinians, Sunday's march is an affront and a violation of one of the few places in the city, increasingly hemmed in by Jewish development and settlement. read more

The parade comes at an already highly charged moment.

Repeated clashes took place between Palestinians and Israeli police in the Al-Aqsa compound in April, during the holy month of Ramadan, with Muslims angered by rising numbers of Jewish visitors to the mosque esplanade.

Two weeks ago, the funeral of Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, killed during an Israeli army West Bank raid, descended into chaos when police charged the mourners.

Al-Aqsa is the third holiest site in Islam. It is also revered by Jews as the Temple Mount — a vestige of their faith's two ancient temples.

Sunday's procession is due to culminate at the Western Wall, a Jewish prayer site that sits below the Al-Aqsa mosques.

Opinion

Editorial

TTP talks’ oversight
Updated 07 Jul, 2022

TTP talks’ oversight

The bottom line is that the state should not negotiate with terrorists from a position of weakness.
Rain disaster
07 Jul, 2022

Rain disaster

IT is the same story year in and year out. Despite many lives lost, billions of rupees in accumulated damages and ...
Sri Lanka bankruptcy
07 Jul, 2022

Sri Lanka bankruptcy

CRITICALLY low foreign exchange reserves; a plummeting currency and a tanking economy; lengthy power cuts and long,...
Miftah’s misery
Updated 06 Jul, 2022

Miftah’s misery

It cannot be easy to be finance minister in times like these, with friend and foe alike gunning for you over difficult decisions.
Phone tapping
06 Jul, 2022

Phone tapping

IT is the season of audio leaks. No sooner does one ‘incriminating’ clip lose its shock value than another...
Transgender job quota
06 Jul, 2022

Transgender job quota

IN a society where transgender persons often face violence and abuse, the Sindh Assembly’s decision to reserve a...