Israeli forces beat Palestinians entering Al-Aqsa Mosque, forcing worshippers to pray outside

Israeli forces beat Palestinians entering Al-Aqsa Mosque, forcing worshippers to pray outside
Most worshippers trying to enter the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem were prevented from barred by Israeli police, with some beaten.
3 min read
11 March, 2024
Men who were barred from entering were forced to perform their first 'taraweeh' prayers outside [Getty]

Israeli police barred hundreds of worshippers from entering the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in occupied East Jerusalem on Sunday evening, as the Muslim holy month of Ramadan began.

Some Palestinians who tried to enter the mosque compound – the third holiest site in Islam – were beaten while a large Israeli police force prevented hundreds from passing, only allowing in women and men aged over 40.

Those who were barred from entering were forced to pray outside the grounds of the religious compound.

Ramadan began on Sunday evening for some Muslims around the world, and throughout the holy fasting month many attend mosques at night for voluntary prayers known as 'taraweeh'.

Jordan's Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi warned on Monday that restrictions imposed by Israel on Muslim worshippers' access to Al-Aqsa Mosque compound was pushing the situation towards an "explosion".

Jordan has custodianship of Jerusalem's holy sites, including Al-Aqsa.

In remarks on state media, Safadi said his country rejected Israel's announced move to limit access to the holy site during Ramadan, citing security needs with its ongoing war on Gaza.

Jordan echoes the Palestinian view that such restrictions were an attack on freedom of worship, he said.

Israeli attacks in Ramadan

Israeli forces and extremists have regularly attacked Palestinian worshippers at Al-Aqsa during Ramadan in previous years and raided the site at other times.

After some confusion last month when extremist National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir demanded tight restrictions on worshippers, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the numbers admitted would be similar to last year, without specifying.

According to local media reports on Sunday, Netanyahu says a decision on whether to storm Al-Aqsa during Ramadan must only be taken by himself, as per an agreement reached with the army and internal security services, Shin Bet.

Shin Bet reportedly thinks leaving the decision up to Netanyahu would be better than Ben-Gvir who had has led multiple raids by extremist settlers.

This includes incursions during Ramadan last year, drawing condemnation from Arab and Muslim nations.

The 47-year-old minister is a staunch supporter of illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank, and a far-right settler who was previously convicted of incitement against Palestinians and supporting a Jewish terror group.

Al-Aqsa at the centre of Israel's occupation

For the rest of the Muslim world, Israel's control of the area around Al-Aqsa and its regular storming of the site has long been among the most bitterly resented issues.

Jewish extremists, some of whom have close ties with far-right members of Netanyahu's government, wish to destroy or occupy the site and re-construct the ancient Temple of Solomon they claim stood on the site thousands of years ago.

Netanyahu claimed last week that Al-Aqsa – located in East Jerusalem which was annexed by Israel in 1967 – was part of Israel, and suggested members of all religions have a right to worship at the Islamic site, despite this breaching the longstanding status-quo arrangement governing the compound.

Al-Aqsa is managed by the Islamic waqf. While non-Muslims are permitted to visit the site, they cannot worship there, under the status-quo agreement in force there.

(The New Arab, Reuters)