JERUSALEM (Caasimada Online) – On Sunday, numerous Israeli settlers and ultranationalists, supported by heavily-armed law enforcement, besieged the Al-Aqsa Mosque in occupied East Jerusalem during Passover celebrations.
While throngs of Israelis explored the mosque’s courtyards starting at 7:30 am local time, Palestinian entry to the site was restricted.
At the same time, Israeli forces targeted Palestinians who sought to reach the mosque overnight for dawn prayers, barring worshippers under 40.
Israeli forces evacuated the Old City, the location of the Al-Aqsa Mosque, in anticipation of widespread Israeli incursions.
Consequently, a mere 30,000 Palestinians could attend the Ramadan Taraweeh night prayer on Saturday, a significant decline from the 130,000 estimated attendees during previous nights this month.
To avoid being expelled from the mosque by Israeli forces, hundreds of worshippers sequestered themselves in the Qibli prayer hall on Saturday night.
Following last week’s repeated attacks by Israeli forces against worshippers inside the Qibli mosque, global denunciation surged.
Jordan, the guardian of Jerusalem’s Islamic and Christian sites, criticized the incursions on Sunday and attributed responsibility for the consequences to Israel.
The Jordanian foreign minister issued a statement condemning the incursions and the violation of the historical and legal status quo agreements at Al-Aqsa.
Long-standing international agreements, collectively known as the status quo, identify Al-Aqsa Mosque as an Islamic site, prohibiting unsolicited visits, prayers, and rituals by non-Muslims.
Despite this, Israeli groups have consistently breached this sensitive accord by coordinating with authorities to facilitate daily raids on the site and conducting prayers and religious ceremonies without Palestinian or Jordanian consent.
Concerns of illegal control
By designating specific times for Palestinian access to Al-Aqsa Mosque and permitting settlers to visit and pray, Palestinians worry that plans are underway to partition the mosque between Muslims and Jews, akin to the division of the Ibrahimi Mosque in Hebron in the 1990s.
Israel’s governance of East Jerusalem, including the Old City, contravenes various tenets of international law, which maintain that occupying powers hold no sovereignty over occupied territories and cannot enact permanent changes.
While Israeli police demonstrated restraint towards Palestinians within Al-Aqsa Mosque over the weekend, they maintained a strong presence on-site.
This unusual behavior follows last week’s recorded and widely disseminated violent assaults on worshippers, which incited increased aggression.
In an apparent response to the Al-Aqsa confrontations, militants launched rockets from Gaza and Lebanon toward Israel on Thursday, injuring at least two Israelis.
Shootings in the occupied West Bank also intensified, resulting in the deaths of two Israeli settlers and injuries to two soldiers.
In response to growing tensions, the Israeli military and law enforcement announced plans to increase their forces and prolong West Bank closures until Wednesday.
Palestinians from the West Bank with permits to work in Israel or visit Al-Aqsa Mosque will be denied entry.
Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant directed soldiers to deploy within Israel’s central district to support police efforts.