Palestinian presidency calls for people to gather at Jerusalem's Al Aqsa Mosque

Israeli police entered compound for second time since Friday

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A spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Sunday urged citizens to travel to Al Aqsa Mosque to "thwart the Israeli onslaught" on Islam’s third-holiest site, Palestinian official news agency Wafa said.

Nabil Abu Rudeineh joined other Palestinian and Jordanian officials in describing Sunday’s events as a "dangerous escalation" after Israeli police entered the mosque compound for the second time since Friday, when more than 150 people were injured.

"The Palestinians will not allow this conspiracy to pass, whatever the price and whatever the sacrifices," Mr Rudeineh said.

Israeli police said in a statement that "hundreds of youths" collected and stockpiled rocks to "create disorder and block visitor pathways" in the Old City of Jerusalem.

They released a video of youths throwing stones at a moving bus outside the Old City.

Jamal Nazzal, spokesman for ruling Fatah party, questioned the reasoning behind the Israeli security forces’ manoeuvres.

“How could several hundred Israeli policemen and soldiers be ready for an allegedly spontaneous reaction to Palestinians throwing stones inside the mosque at 5am before sunrise? Why would any Palestinian be throwing stones in any direction if there were no police forces inside the mosque to disturb, insult and provoke them by violent actions?”

Israeli police in the Old City of Jerusalem on Sunday. AP

Later on Sunday, the spokesman for the Committee of Temple Organisations, Asaf Fried, wrote in a Facebook post that "728 Jews climbed the Mount safely today. They have failed! We have won!"

Some Palestinians have also claimed victory, describing Israel’s actions as a "withdrawal" from the mosque’s premises.

Jerusalem’s Islamic Supreme Committee called for people to mobilise in support of the mosque.

Meanwhile, Jordan’s King Abdullah condemned on Sunday what he described as Israeli escalatory moves in Jerusalem, in his first public remarks since leaving to Germany for back surgery last week.

The king said that Israel must “respect the historic and international status” of the the Al Aqsa mosque and “find a real political horizon that guarantees all legitimate rights of the Palestinian people, based on the two states solution."

He described protection of Jerusalem and its holy sites as “a Jordanian priority”, saying that the city’s “Arab, Islamic and Christian identity” must be preserved.

Jordan’s Foreign Ministry said Israel’s attempt to "change the historic and legal status quo in Al Aqsa is a dangerous escalation and breach of international law".

Al Aqsa Mosque

At least 22 Palestinians were injured, including three seriously, the Palestinian Red Crescent said.

Israeli forces fired tear gas, stun grenades and rubber bullets at the worshippers, Wafa said.

Israeli forces also attacked women near the mosque, beating them with batons, the news agency said.

Some worshippers were locked inside prayer halls by Israeli forces and chanted: "With our souls, with our blood, we will redeem you, Aqsa," it said.

The news agency said Israeli forces also cleared worshippers from the Marwani prayer hall, a vaulted space at the bottom of stairs that lead down from Al Aqsa to the southern wall of the site.

"The occupying forces are engaging in terrorism at Al Aqsa by stifling worshippers and preventing freedom of worship," said Al Aqsa’s preacher and former Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Sheikh Ekrima Sa’id Sabri.

Israeli police said they entered to enable a routine visit to the site by Jews.

Al Aqsa is administered by a waqf – an Islamic trust – that is funded and controlled by Jordan in a security arrangement with Israel after both countries signed a peace treaty in 1994.

Under the arrangement, Jews are not allowed to pray in the grounds of Al Aqsa compound but can do so at the nearby Western Wall.

"Your Aqsa is crying for help," a man was heard saying.

In Jenin, two demonstrations broke out, protesting against the events in Al Aqsa.

Dozens of people struggles to breathe after tear gas was launched by on the demonstrators, Wafa said.

The violence on Friday and Sunday at Islam’s third-holiest site, which is also revered in Judaism, came during Ramadan and before the Jewish holiday of Passover.

Friday’s events drew widespread condemnation, including from the UAE, Morocco, Bahrain, Egypt and Saudi Arabia.

The UAE called on Israeli authorities to respect the right of Palestinians to practise their religious rites and halt any acts that breach the sanctity of Al Aqsa.

A statement issued by Morocco said the "flagrant aggression and deliberate provocation during the holy month of Ramadan will only inflame hatred and extremism, and reduce to nothing the chances of any relaunch of a peace process in the region”.

The incursions raise fears of another flare-up of Israeli-Palestinian violence. Confrontations at Al Aqsa were a contributing factor to the 11-day war between Israel and militants in Gaza last May.

Updated: April 18, 2022, 5:15 AM
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