Israel attacks Al-Aqsa: 31 wounded in new Israeli raid on holy mosque

Israel attacks Al-Aqsa: 31 wounded in new Israeli raid on holy mosque
The latest attack takes the number of wounded in Israeli raids at Al-Aqsa since Friday to more than 170.
4 min read
The Palestinian Red Crescent said 19 Palestinians were wounded (Getty)

More Palestinians were wounded and arrested on Sunday as Israeli forces again violently attacked occupied East Jerusalem's Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, only two days after previously raiding the third-holiest site in Islam.

The latest Israeli attack takes the number of wounded on the Palestinian side since Friday to more than 170, at a tense time when the Jewish Passover festival coincides with the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan.

The Palestinian Red Crescent said 31 people were wounded in and near the site by Israeli forces and settlers on Sunday, including at least five Palestinians who were hospitalised. The medical organisation said some had been wounded by rubber-coated steel bullets.

Some 150 Palestinians were injured when Israel raided Al-Aqsa, including the mosque itself, on Friday.

Israeli forces used tear gas and sound bombs in an effort to drive Palestinian worshippers from the compound's Al-Qibli Mosque.

Israeli police early on Sunday alleged that "hundreds" of Palestinian demonstrators inside the mosque compound had started gathering piles of stones.

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It claimed that its forces had entered the compound in order to "remove" the demonstrators and "re-establish order".

The Al-Aqsa compound was also raided by over 500 Israeli settlers on Sunday, who performed prayers there, Sheikh Omar Kiswani, director of Al-Aqsa Mosque, told The New Arab.

'Free hand'

Israel's actions at Al-Aqsa have drawn condemnation from Muslim countries.

King Abdullah II of Jordan, the kingdom that serves as custodian of holy places in East Jerusalem, which Israel captured in 1967 and later annexed in a move not recognised by most of the international community, on Sunday called on Israel to "stop all illegal and provocative measures" that drive "further aggravation".

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in a call Sunday with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, said he would make contact with all sides to "end the Israeli escalation", Abbas' office said in a statement.

Senior Palestinian official Hussein Al-Sheikh said on Sunday that "Israel's dangerous escalation in the Al-Aqsa compound... is a blatant attack on our holy places", and called on the international community to intervene.

Israeli police said they had arrested 18 Palestinians on Sunday, and Public Security Minister Omer Bar-Lev said Israel would "act strongly against anyone who dares to use terrorism against Israeli citizens."

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said that the security forces "continue to receive a free hand... for any action that will provide security to the citizens of Israel", while stressing every effort should be made to allow members of all religions to worship in Jerusalem.

The United Nations has called for calm, a year after clashes in and around the mosque compound escalated into an 11-day war between Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza.

The chief of the Hamas Islamist movement, which controls the besieged Palestinian enclave of Gaza, warned Israel that "Al-Aqsa is ours and ours alone".

"Our people have the right to access it and pray in it, and we will not bow down to [Israeli] repression and terror," Ismail Haniyeh said in a statement.

Pope's Easter peace prayer

Weeks of mounting tensions saw two recent deadly attacks by Palestinians in or near the Israeli coastal city of Tel Aviv, as Israeli forces killed Palestinians and carried out mass arrests by Israeli forces in the occupied West Bank.

A total of 14 people have been killed in attacks against Israel since 22 March, while 22 Palestinians have been killed over the same period, including assailants who targeted Israelis, according to an AFP tally.

One of those killed by Israel was a Palestinian woman shot because she looked "suspicious" as she walked near a checkpoint near Bethlehem on 10 April.

The woman, identified as Ghada Ibrahim Ali Sabateen, could be seen holding her hands above her head as she ran away from the troops who opened fire at her, graphic footage of the incident showed.

The woman, a mother-of-six and a widow, was unarmed, according to an Israeli forces spokesperson.

Pope Francis on Sunday, with Christians marking Easter at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, where they believe Jesus died and was resurrected, prayed for peace.

"May Israelis, Palestinians and all who dwell in the Holy City, together with the pilgrims, experience the beauty of peace, dwell in fraternity and enjoy free access to the Holy Places in mutual respect for the rights of each," he said in his Easter address.

Despite the tensions, hundreds of Christians staged a lively parade in Jerusalem, with processions led by marching bands with deafening drums and wailing bagpipes.