AMMAN: At least 14 Palestinians were injured on Sunday when Israeli police fired tear gas and stun grenades at up to 100,000 worshippers during prayers at Al-Aqsa mosque compound to mark the first day of Eid Al-Adha.
The clashes erupted after the Israeli police and government allowed Jewish extremists to visit the site, after initially barring entry. Jerusalem police commander Doron Yedid said the policy had changed “with the backing of top political officials.”
Jews are barred from praying at the compound under a longstanding arrangement between Israel and Muslim authorities, but in recent years right-wing nationalists have stepped up visits to the site to challenge the arrangement. Jewish extremists have called for the mosque to be destroyed and the biblical Jewish temple to be rebuilt on the site.
Israeli security forces scuffle with Palestinians at the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in the Old City of Jerusalem on August 11, 2019. (AFP / Ahmad Gharabli)
Islamic Waqf officials had postponed morning prayers for an hour on Sunday, closed all Jerusalem mosques and called on Muslims to stay on the grounds to prevent the extremists’ incursion.
“This is a clear violation of an understanding that has existed since 1967, and it is aimed at trying to show that Al-Aqsa is not for Muslims by themselves,” Khaleel Assali, a member of the Islamic Waqf council, told Arab News.
Jordan, the custodian of the holy site, blamed Israel for Sunday’s violence and submitted a formal complaint to the Israeli government. “We condemn the continued Israeli violations against Al-Aqsa Mosque, and attacks on worshippers and Waqf teams on the ground,” the Foreign Ministry in Amman said. “We hold the Israeli government responsible.”
Mahdi Abdul Hadi, director of the PASSIA think tank in Jerusalem and a member of the Waqf council, told Arab News the decision to delay the prayer time and to call people to Al-Aqsa was wise.
“Jerusalemites sent a strong message that has defeated attempts at storming the mosque, but the blind military machine injured youth, women, and children in order to try and enforce its dominion on Al-Aqsa,” he said.
“The people of Jerusalem defeated similar attempts in 1928, 1969, 2017 and now in 2019.”
Nasser Laham, editor of the independent Palestinian website Maan News, told Arab News the Israeli media was exaggerating and contributing to the violence. “A quick look at their headlines and you can see them full of lies, incitement, and violence,” he said.
Jamal Dajani, former head of the Palestinian prime minister’s media office, said the actions of the Israeli government were intentional. “Netanyahu is deliberately allowing extremist colonial settlers to antagonize Palestinian worshippers during Eid in order to provoke clashes and have a pretext to take control of Al-Aqsa, just as was done with Al-Ibrahimi Mosque in Hebron,” he said on Twitter.