Violence at Jerusalem Mosque: Is There More to Come?

by Lucas Garcia
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Early Wednesday, Israeli police went into the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem’s Old City. The police threw stun grenades at some Palestinian youths who were throwing fireworks at them. After this happened, Gaza militants fired rockets at southern Israel, causing Israel to retaliate by launching air strikes against them.

Recently, there has been a lot of fighting between Muslims and Jews. Because it is Ramadan for the Muslims and Passover starts later this week, some people are worried that it could lead to an even bigger war. Two years ago, a war did break out in Gaza for 11 days because of similar clashes and now an Israeli soldier was shot in a different incident involving West Bank.

The mosque is located at the top of a special hill that both Jews and Muslims consider holy. During Ramadan, Al-Aqsa welcomes lots of worshippers, which makes it even more important in the Islamic faith as it’s the third holiest area overall. Jews, on the other hand, think of this place with great importance too – they call it Temple Mount and relate it to some Bible stories. Due to these beliefs there are frequent arguments between them which sometimes lead to violent clashes.

The Palestinian news agency Wafa said that many people who were praying and staying there overnight got hurt when Israeli police suddenly came and raided the mosque. The police told they had came as some young people and adults with faces covered brought fireworks, sticks, stones, and blocked the entrance of the mosque. They also yelled violent words while closing off the doors.

Police said that since they couldn’t get them out by trying to talk, they were forced to enter the mosque to rescue them.

Videos showed that fireworks were exploding inside the mosque. In one video, some police officers were hitting people with their clubs or rifle butts while a woman was heard screaming “Oh God” in panic.

When groups of young people gathered near the gate, police used bright lights and bullets made out of rubber to make them go away. They said an officer was hurt in his leg and about 350 people were taken into custody. In addition, pictures show fireworks and a big rock that someone seemed to have thrown.

Talab Abu Eisha (49) explained that there were 400 folks including moms, dads and kids who were praying at the Al-Aqsa Mosque when policemen blocked it off.

The young people were scared and quickly shut the doors. Then, police officers rushed into the eastern side of the area and began hitting and capturing the guys that were there.

He explained that the police were unusually violent and deliberately trying to hurt young people, despite what the police said about fireworks and rocks being hidden away. He also mentioned that on Wednesday morning the police blocked anyone under 50 years old from entering the area near an Old City compound where people offer prayers.

Groups from Palestine launched lots of missiles from Gaza towards the southern part of Israel as people were getting ready to start celebrating Passover. As a result, alarms sounded all around the area.

Five rockets were fired which the Israeli military was able to block. Later, they sent an airstrike on Hamas (an Islamic militant group) to get rid of their weapons and storage areas. Then, more rockets and airstrikes happened in the morning.

Things have been getting more and more tense ever since the new government, run by very religious and super nationalistic people, came into power in Israel late last year. People are scared that violence might break out because both Jews and Muslims will be going to the contested Jerusalem at the same time for their religious holidays.

Itamar Ben-Gvir is in charge of the police and he has a past of using violent speech and behavior against Palestinian people. In response, groups in Gaza have been organizing big rallies and they are encouraging people to march to the Israel-Gaza border for more protests that could turn violent.

Hamas and Islamic Jihad, two Palestinian militant groups, urged Palestinians who live in Jerusalem, the West Bank and Israel to group up around Al-Aqsa Mosque and challenge Israeli soldiers.

Ziyad al-Nakhala, the chief of Islamic Jihad explained that the tension at Al-Aqsa is very concerning. He suggested all people must be ready for a potential battle over the next few days.

The people in charge of the West Bank, led by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, were very angry about an attack on people worshipping there. His spokesman, Nabil Abu Rudeineh said that this was going too far and would likely cause a lot of disruption.

The government of Jordan, who is in charge of the mosque, stated their strongest displeasure against the raid initiated by Israel. They also issued a warning that dangerous consequences may come from this raiding, and are holding Israel accountable for keeping the Al-Aqsa Mosque secure.

At the same time when something bad was happening in Jerusalem, the Israeli military announced that there was conflict going on in a Palestinian city called Beit Umar. It’s located near Hebron and people were reported to have set tires on fire, thrown rocks and explosives towards soldiers. Unfortunately one of the soldiers got shot by the suspects who then ran away.

On Tuesday, a Palestinian person used a knife to injure two Israelis close to an army base south of Tel Aviv. This attack is part of the string of violence that has been going on for a year now and it did not stop yet.

Magen David Adom, which helps people in emergencies, said they treated two men who were hurt badly and less seriously because of the stabbing incident. After that, they were sent to the hospital to get medical help.

The press names them as soldiers.

At the scene of the event, bystanders caught the person accused of doing wrong and handed them over to the police.

Over the last year, tensions between Israelis and Palestinians have increased significantly. The Israeli military has raided Palestinian places, while Palestinians have attacked Israelis a lot.

So far this year, 88 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces, while 15 Israelis have died in Palestinian attacks. Israel says most of the people killed on the Palestinian side are fighters, however some stones throwing kids and other individuals who were not involved in violence have also sadly lost their lives. All those who have died on the Israeli side are civilians.

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