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Escalation of Attacks on Al-Aqsa Mosque

17/04/14

Israeli soldiers at Al-AqsaDuring the month of March over 1,250 Zionist settlers forced their way into the compound of Al-Aqsa Mosque in Occupied East Jerusalem. Al-Aqsa Mosque is the third holiest site in Islam and has been a frequent target for settlers who are intent on provoking Palestinian worshippers there.

Previously such incursions were solely carried out by members of right-wing religious extremist groups. In recent times, however, they have taken on a more political dimension and are now often led by Israeli government members even including some Cabinet ministers. They are always assisted by the Israeli occupation force and police.

There have been frequent reports of Palestinians being verbally abused and assaulted by the extremist settlers. Harassment and arrest of both teachers and students at the mosque is also commonplace. The incursions often end in violence when local Palestinians resist the oppression and attack the police with stones.

Raids on Al-Aqsa are at the highest level they have been since 1967. The ever increasing frequency of incursions into Al-Aqsa points to a sinister long-term plan by Israel to take control of the area around the Mosque and grab even more land in East Jerusalem. Already there are plans to build a road close to Al-Aqsa in order to facilitate military vehicles storming the compound.

Police have also sporadically prohibited young Palestinians from praying there, setting up age limits to restrict access. This too is part of a campaign to stop more and more Palestinians from visiting the site and alter the facts on the ground, making it ‘normal’ for there to be an Israeli presence in the compound.

In February the Israeli government debated annexing the site, something that right-wing Israeli extremists have been eyeing for many years. It is part of a wider campaign Israel has been following in Jerusalem and the occupied West Bank as a whole. Demolishing Palestinian homes and confiscating land for Israeli projects to try and disrupt the Palestinian state and the return of refugees to their homes. Any form of Palestinian sovereignty, no matter how small provokes this sort of reaction from Israel.

It is remarkable that these incursions have increased over the past few months, at a time when the Palestinian Authority is engaging in negotiations with Israel. Surely such provocations must stop for negotiations to be in any way meaningful or helpful. The international community must end its silence on this issue and on the expansionist policies of Israel. They cannot be allowed to act with impunity and impact so heavily on the freedom of movement of Palestinians in their own land.

 

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