On the morning of July 27, 2017 the Israeli Government withdrew the last of the security measures in al-Aqsa mosque. Waqf, the Islamic authority that manages the mosque, gave a green light for prayers to be conducted as usual and for worshipers to be able to return to al-Aqsa.
However, upon returning to al-Aqsa mosque Israeli forces not only fired tear gas, but used stun grenades and sound bombs at Palestinians returning to the mosque. Approximately, more than 100 Palestinians were injured.
Bab Hutta, which is one of the gates to al-Aqsa mosque was still shut despite lifting ‘all’ security measures. Palestinians wanted all Israeli enforced measures to be removed before they entered the compound. According to Al Jazeera, “Israeli security forces followed the worshipers in from the Bab Hutta gate and fired stun grenades, sound bombs and tear gas”.
It had been almost two weeks since Israel closed the al-Aqsa mosque for the very first time since 1969. Prior to the close down, a violent gun battle occurred on July 14 between Palestinian citizens of Israel and the Israeli forces. The gun battle caused the death of two Israeli police forces and three Palestinian attackers. Hence, the shut down of al-Aqsa mosque by the Israeli Government.
In the aftermath, Israel sealed the site for Friday prayers and only opened the premises on the following Sunday. Metal detectors and a number of cameras were installed at the entrance of the site. However, Palestinians were not pleased with all the new security measures and abstained from entering al-Aqsa until the measure were removed.
Thousands of Palestinians had been praying outside of the Lion’s Gate – one of the entrances to the Old City, in a form of protests against the Israeli Government. Unfortunately, their peaceful protests were brutally disrupted by the Israeli forces in which hundreds were left injured.
Furthermore, President Mahmoud Abbas “announced that the Palestinian leadership had frozen all contact with Israel sue to the growing tensions at al-Aqsa compound” and will resume as per normal once Israel gets rid of all security measures.
The international law states that an occupying power does not have sovereignty in the territory it occupies. There is no country in the world which recognises Israel’s ‘ownership’ of Jerusalem.
Why is it not surprising to see the Israeli Government trying to take any rights the Palestinians are left with taken away? The site is of equal importance to all three Abrahamic religions, Muslims, Jews and Christians. In fact al-Aqsa is recognised as a World Heritage site by the United Nations.
Moreover, it belongs to the International community under the UN. Therefore technically, Israel is violating the international law by illegally controlling East Jerusalem which is inclusive of the Old City.
A clear sign of Human Rights violation can be seen by the mere fact that the Palestinians in Jerusalem only hold a Permanent Residence status in spite of being born there. Whereas, Jews in Jerusalem hold a Citizenship status. Palestinians have repeatedly been rejected of permits to build homes in East Jerusalem where Israel has built illegal settlements for its people.
Over the years, the Israeli Government have taken drastic and inhumane steps in order to control the Old City and East Jerusalem entirely.
It is indeed a victory for Palestinians since Israel decided to lift all security measures from al-Aqsa mosque. However, their welcome back to the al-Aqsa compound was a rather unpleasant and violent one.
Let’s not forget that Palestinians in Gaza are suffering from lack of food, water and healthcare. There are a number of Gaza relief funds whereby people donate to help them rebuild their homes and get medical treatments.
Raising awareness of Palestinians sufferings in Jerusalem and Gaza will provide one a better understanding of their plight. But what is most important, is to help them rebuild and improve their lives through relief funds; as it could have been anyone of us.
Maria Khan Safi