Israeli forces beat, arrest Palestinians at Al-Aqsa mosque
Israeli forces beat and arrested Muslim worshippers at the Al-Aqsa mosque early on Sunday to make way for the entry of over a thousand Jewish settlers, the official Palestinian news agency WAFA has reported.
Israeli police made their way into the compound through two gates in the early hours of Sunday, assaulting Muslim worshippers gathered at the holy site for prayers, according to witnesses cited by WAFA news agency.
Stun grenades and tear gas were deployed as part of the crackdown, WAFA reported, adding that Israeli forces shuttered a building housing hundreds of worshippers - while groups of Israeli settlers stormed the compound.
An unspecified number of Palestinians were also arrested, according to WAFA.
Under the auspices of the Israeli military, rightwing Jewish settlers frequently storm the site they label the “Temple Mount”, alleging it spans the location of the two ancient Jewish temples.
Hardline Jewish groups had called for a large gathering at the site on July 18, to mark a religious date known as "the destruction of the temple".
The planned storming of the third holiest site of Islam was condemned on Saturday by a group of leading Muslim scholars, who urged Palestinians to mobilise to protect the compound.
The EU has since expressed concern for what it has labelled as "acts of incitement", while Jordan – who is the charge of Islamic religious endowments in Israeli-annexed East Jerusalem – denounced Israel's "violation of the historical and legal status quo" of the site.
First moments of when Israeli forces stormed the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound after Fajr prayer this morning. pic.twitter.com/WcA07edm8G— Arwa Ibrahim (@arwaib) July 18, 2021
On Saturday, the Doha-based International Union for Muslim Scholars urged locals to prevent the settlers from storming the compound, Anadolu Agency reported. In a statement, IUMS Secretary-General Ali al-Qaradaghi said the group condemned the "repeated provocation and continuous attack by extremists on Al-Aqsa Mosque".
"We urge the Palestinians in general and the people of Jerusalem and its surroundings in particular to mobilize to protect Al-Aqsa," al-Qaradaghi said.
But as the aggression was underway, the EU expressed concern for "ongoing tensions around the Haram Al-Sharif/Temple Mount". In a tweet, the bloc's mission to the Palestinians wrote: "Acts of incitement have to be avoided and the status quo respected".
Later, Jordan said it sent a letter of protest calling on Israel stop its "violations and provocations" at Islam's third holiest site, which has been under the Hashemite Kingdom's stewardship since 1924.
In a statement, Daifullah al-Fayez, spokesman for Jordan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates, said Israeli actions "represent the violation of the historical and legal status quo, international law, and Israel's obligations as an occupying power in East Jerusalem".
Under the "status quo" agreement involving Jordan, Jewish prayer is prevented in the compound.
The Palestinian Authority, which a US diplomat recently said was internally beset with an unprecedented legitimacy crisis, issued its own statement accusing the Israeli government of endangering regional security.
"By continuing its policy of incursions into religious places, as is happening today in the Al-Aqsa Mosque, Israel is defying the Palestinian people and disregarding international positions," said Nabil Abu Rudeineh, spokesman for President Mahmoud Abbas.