The Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, a holy site for Muslims and a national symbol for Palestinians has been the center of tensions for years. Ultranationalist Jews have increased their attempts to pray on the site, causing clashes between Palestinians and Israeli forces. The latest incident occurred during the holy month of Ramadan when Israeli police stormed the compound and attacked worshippers.

What happened in the Al-Aqsa compound?

Before dawn on Wednesday, Israeli police stormed the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in occupied East Jerusalem, attacking dozens of worshippers in the Qibla Mosque. The police claimed they were responding to “rioting” and beat worshippers with batons, using tear gas and sound bombs to force them out of the prayer halls.


Social media videos showed women screaming for help as a small fire erupted in the prayer hall. The Palestinian Red Crescent reported 12 people injured, including three who were taken to hospital. At least 400 Palestinians were arrested and remain in Israeli custody, according to local officials.

Why did the security forces enter a mosque?

Israeli police claimed they were forced to enter the compound after “masked agitators” locked themselves inside the mosque with fireworks, sticks, and stones. The police statement also said that according to a prior agreement with the Al-Aqsa compound authorities, no one was to spend the night inside the compound during the month of Ramadan.


Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh condemned the incident as “a major crime against the worshippers” and stated that “prayer in Al-Aqsa Mosque is not with the permission of the [Israeli] occupation … it is our right.”

Has this happened before?

In recent years, the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound has been an annual flashpoint during Ramadan. Last year, more than 300 Palestinians were arrested and at least 170 wounded as Israeli forces launched incursions at the compound during the holy month. In May 2021, Israeli forces stormed the compound using tear gas, rubber-coated steel bullets, and stun grenades against worshippers during Ramadan.


The developments coincided with a rise in violent incidents against Palestinians by Israeli settlers and forces in East Jerusalem’s neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah as Palestinian families facing the threat of forced eviction from their homes. Confrontations in Jerusalem and the wider West Bank culminated in an 11-day Israeli offensive on the Gaza Strip on May 10, which killed at least 256 Palestinians, including 66 children, and wounded more than 1,900 people.

Why are Palestinians fearful about Al-Aqsa’s future?

The Al-Aqsa compound sits on a plateau in East Jerusalem, which Israel captured in the 1967 Six-Day War and later annexed in a move not recognized by most in the international community. For Muslims, the compound hosts Islam’s third-holiest site, Al-Aqsa Mosque, and the Dome of the Rock, a seventh-century structure believed to be where the Prophet Muhammad ascended to heaven.


Palestinians fear that Israel intends to change the status quo at the site, allowing Jewish prayer on the compound and ultimately taking control of it. Israel has denied these claims, but its policies of expanding settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, home demolitions, and forced evictions of Palestinian families have created an atmosphere of fear and tension among Palestinians.The recent events at the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound during the holy month of Ramadan have once again highlighted the tensions that have been simmering in Jerusalem for years. Israeli forces stormed the compound and attacked worshippers, leading to injuries and arrests. This is not the first time such incidents have occurred, and Palestinians fear that Israel intends to change the status quo at the site and ultimately take control of it.


The situation in Jerusalem is complex and fraught with tension, with both sides holding deeply entrenched views. It is imperative that both Israelis and Palestinians engage in constructive dialogue to find a peaceful solution to the conflict. The international community must also play a role in facilitating this dialogue and ensuring that human rights are respected and protected. Only through such efforts can we hope to see an end to the violence and tension that have plagued the region for far too long.


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