Call for Day of Rage over al-Aqsa Mosque
PALESTINIAN Authority-affiliated movement Fatah called for a Day of Rage today as tensions build up over Islam’s third holiest shrine, the al-Aqsa Mosque in Israeli-occupied East Jerusalem.
Following a shooting attack last Friday by three Israeli-Arab gunmen on Israeli police, which left two officers and the three gunmen dead, the Israeli authorities closed the mosque for several days as they investigated the shooting.
This was the first time in 50 years that Muslims were banned from praying there after an Australian with a mental illness tried to burn down al-Aqsa in 1967.
Jerusalem’s Old City was also closed to Muslim worshippers, apart from those who live inside the walled city, while Israelis and tourists were free to come and go.
Following the attack, metal detectors have been installed at all the entrances of the mosque, but the Muslim Waqf, which administers the holy site under Jordan custodianship, said this was unacceptable interference and an attempt by Israel to take control of the mosque.
Over the past few days. Waqf officials have refused to enter al-Aqsa and called on worshippers to hold prayers outside the mosque in protest.
On Monday night, several Palestinians were injured, including women. children and a Palestinian politician, as angry protesters clashed with Israeli security forces.
Palestinians fear that the Israeli authorities want to divide al-Aqsa as happened in the Ibrahimi Mosque in Hebron, in the southern Israeli occupied West Bank, after a Jewish American settler, Baruch Goldstein, opened fire on Muslims worshipping there in 1994, killing 29 and wounding 125.
“This move by Israel is part of its plan to Judaise East Jerusalem and assert its sovereignty over the whole of the city,” said Halima Abu Haniyeh, a Palestinian journalist.
Under international law, East Jerusalem is illegally occupied by the Israelis and is where the Palestinians hope to establish the capital of a future Palestinian state.
In an attempt to establish facts on the ground, the Israelis have changed the municipal boundaries of Jerusalem, incorporating large parts of the West Bank into its borders and building illegal settlements in East Jerusalem.
“There are currently over 300 000 Israeli settlers living illegally in East Jerusalem,” said Abu Haniyeh.
“For Palestinians, however, there is a chronic shortage of housing,” she added.
“Furthermore, an extreme rightwing Israeli movement called the Temple Mount Faithful want to build the third Jewish Temple in the place of al-Aqsa Mosque.”
Although Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has vowed to keep access to the mosque as is, sharing access between Jewish visitors and Muslim worshippers, there are members of his hard-right government who advocate a change in the status quo to allow Jews to worship there.
The sensitivity over al-Aqsa has lead to mass unrest in the past and Fatah’s political rival in Gaza, Hamas, has called for an uprising over al-Aqsa.