Jerusalem, 5 April 2023 (TDI): Israeli forces broke into Al-Aqsa Mosque in occupied East Jerusalem to forcefully remove hundreds of Palestinian worshippers who were holding an all-night Ramadan prayer vigil at the Muslim holy compound.

At least 12 Palestinians sustained wounds, including from rubber-tipped bullets and beatings, in clashes with Israeli police who entered Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa mosque before dawn on Wednesday.

The incident, which occurred during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan and on the eve of the Jewish Passover, has triggered a furious reaction from Palestinians across the occupied West Bank and cross-border strikes in Gaza.

“In the yard to the eastern part of the compound, the police fired tear gas and stun grenades, it was a scene that I can’t describe,” said Fahmi Abbas, a worshipper at the mosque.

“Then they stormed in and started beating everyone. They detained people and put the young men face down on the ground while they continued beating them.”

Apart from that, an elderly woman told the Reuters news agency while sitting outside the mosque struggling to catch her breath, “I was sitting on a chair reciting [the Quran], they hurled stun grenades, one of them hit my chest,” she said as she began to cry.

Israeli police detain a Palestinian worshipper during a violent raid at the Al-Aqsa Mosque

The clashes, which saw police firing tear gas and stun grenades, were reportedly prompted by “masked agitators” who had barricaded themselves inside the mosque with fireworks, sticks, and stones.

Police were forced to enter the compound in order to remove the individuals, according to a statement from Israeli police.

The statement also claimed that stones were thrown and multiple firecrackers were set off inside the mosque by “many law-breaking individuals and rioters,” and that two police officers were wounded.

Into the bargain, the recent attacks on worshippers in Jerusalem have been condemned by Palestinian groups, who have described them as a crime.

The Palestinian Authority Prime Minister, Mohammad Shtayyeh, has issued a statement expressing his concern, stating that prayer in the Al-Aqsa Mosque is a right, not a permission granted by the Israeli occupation.

He went on to say that Al-Aqsa Mosque is not only a place of worship for Palestinians but also for all Arabs and Muslims. According to Shtayyeh, the raiding of the Al-Aqsa Mosque is a spark of revolution against the occupation.

The statement highlights the importance of respecting the rights of individuals to practice their religious beliefs without fear of violence or persecution.

The incident has raised fears that tensions built up during a year of escalating violence could be unleashed at the Al-Aqsa mosque, where clashes in 2021 set off a 10-day war with Gaza.

At least nine rockets were fired from Gaza overnight, prompting air strikes from Israel which struck what it said were Hamas weapon production sites, setting off ground-shaking explosions heard across the blockaded coastal strip.

Witnesses also reported Israeli tanks shelling Hamas positions along the border fence in the southern part of the Gaza Strip.

The Waqf, the Jordanian-appointed organization that manages the Al-Aqsa complex, described the police actions as a “flagrant assault on the identity and the function of the mosque as a place of worship for Muslims alone.”

The complex is considered the third holiest site in the Muslim world. Under the longstanding “status quo” arrangement governing the area, non-Muslims can visit the site but only Muslims are allowed to worship in the mosque compound.

However, Jewish visitors have increasingly prayed more or less openly at the site in defiance of the rules.

The situation appeared to have calmed as day broke, but the incident has further inflamed tensions in the region, with fears of more violence in the coming days.

The indiscriminate use of force by Israeli occupation forces against defenseless Palestinians defies all humanitarian and human rights norms and laws.

By carrying out the illegal raids, Israel has backed out on its recent commitment to respect the sanctity of Ramadan.

They urged Israeli authorities to respect the “status quo” arrangement governing the Al-Aqsa complex and to ensure that all worshippers can practice their religion peacefully and without fear of violence or intimidation.

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