18 February 2019

Israeli police and the Temple Movement that seeks to establish a Temple upon Masjid al-Aqsa, often working in tacit liaison, are evidently becoming more brazen in their assaults on Masjid al-Aqsa.

A series of developments at Islam’s third Holiest Site over the past month have seen settler and police activity at areas of the Masjid typically not frequented by Zionists, raising speculation that plans to exercise full Israeli sovereignty at al-Aqsa are being fast-tracked and that no area at the Masjid is now considered off-bounds for Zionist activity.

The new developments come at a time when Israel heads to the polls, with the extreme right wing, which is currently in ascendancy in the state, asserting the Temple discourse onto the electoral agenda. It also occurs concurrently to Israeli police continuing to observe a strict and punitive policy towards Muslims frequenting and protecting the Masjid.

Fears have been expressed that the latest developments are a means of creating facts on the ground at the Holy Site, thereby setting new precedents that will ebb away at Muslim prayer rights at the Masjid.

The following is a summary of the key developments in January/February 2019:

  1. 14 January: Siege on the Dome of the Rock

In response to an Israeli policeman donning religious headgear attempting to enter the Dome of the Rock purportedly for a ‘routine security check’, Palestinian guards at the Masjid fearing ill-play or that the entry may be religiously motivated, shut all the doors of the structure and barricaded themselves inside. Israeli soldiers in large numbers then besieged the Dome of the Rock. This sparked an impassioned response from worshippers who gathered in large numbers outside the Dome demanding a lifting of the siege. The siege was ultimately ended after a standoff of approximately six hours, but not after Israeli forces arrested Palestinian mosque guards who had locked themselves within the Dome.

  1. 20 January: Israel bans al-Aqsa guards

Israeli police banned five of the mosque’s Palestinian guards from entering the Al-Aqsa compound for periods ranging from four to six months, the latest in a long string of assaults against the Masjid’s employees.

According to Al Ray, the six-month deportation decision included guards Fadi Alian, Louai Abu Saad, Ahmed Abu Alia and a member of the Jerusalem district Awad Salaymeh.

The occupation decided to expel Yahya Shehadeh and Salman Abu Miyaleh, for 4 months, from the mosque.

Nasser Quss, director of the Palestinian Prisoners’ Association, a Jerusalem-based NGO, said the Israeli authorities banned Palestinians — both guards and worshippers — from entering the masjid compound 100 times in the last year alone.

  1. 21 January: Israeli Forces Storm Al-Aqsa, Take Measurements and Photographs

According to the IMEMC, Israeli forces stormed into Al Aqsa Mosque and began to photograph the mosque’s landmarks and take measurements without mentioning any reasons for it.

  1. 24 January: Israeli settlers and police trespass INSIDE the Dome of the Rock

A large number of Israeli settlers and Israeli police stormed the Dome of the Rock inside the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, in the Old City of Jerusalem.

Head of the public relations office at the Islamic Endowment Department, Firas al-Dibs pointed out that a number of Israeli police stormed the Dome of the Rock mosque, which is situated inside the Al-Aqsa compound, and several Israeli settlers entered into the women’s prayer space, while Muslim women were performing prayers inside. This kind of provocation had hardly occurred before, as settlers normally frequent open courtyards of al-Aqsa during their provocative tours, and had not dared to enter into covered prayer spaces such as the Qibli Musallah and Dome of the Rock.

Islamic religious bodies in the eastern city of Jerusalem later condemned the Israeli police’s raid on Al-Aqsa Mosque.

This came in a joint statement, which revealed that the entry into the Dome of the Rock was led by the Israeli police chief in Jerusalem Yoram Halifi’s accompanied by a group of veterans who occupied it and the city of East Jerusalem in 1967.

The Ministry of Awqaf signed the statement, Islamic Affairs and Holy Places, the Islamic Supreme Committee, the Palestinian Fatwa Department, the Endowments and Islamic Affairs Department and the acting judge.

The statement said that “the militarisation of the holy Al-Aqsa Mosque and programmed Jewish intrusions came in the context of electoral propaganda for the extreme right and what comes in the next period, and we should be very cautious of its hidden effects.”

The bodies condemned the Jerusalem police chief, Halifi, and the delegation accompanying him following their raid on “all the prayer halls and the squares of Al-Aqsa Mosque.”

They pointed out that the intrusion occurred “despite the Ministry of Awqaf, Islamic Affairs and Holy Places objection and by force, which has serious implications and dimensions on the Al-Aqsa Mosque.”

The Jerusalem authorities reiterated that Al-Aqsa Mosque is a holy place for Muslims only and “is not up for concession, negotiation or division.”

They added that “what these people are doing will not underestimate the Islamic holiness of Al-Aqsa Mosque, and that millions of the Muslim world will not stand idly by in front of this barbarism.”

  1. 27 January: Israeli MK undertakes high profile walkabout of Old City for electioneering

Miri Regev, the Israeli Minister of Culture and Sport of Israel, toured the streets of the Old City of Jerusalem, as dozens of Israeli settlers stormed the Al-Aqsa Mosque.

A Ma’an reporter said that Regev toured the streets of the Old City along with a camera crew, in order to shoot her political campaign, for the upcoming Israeli legislative elections in April.

Israeli forces, who were deployed across the compound on the day, also banned the entry of clothes of Al-Aqsa guards.

  1. 03 Feb: Israel bans seven women for mere presence in Bab ar-Rahmah region of al-Aqsa

Israeli occupation authorities banned seven Palestinian women from accessing Al-Aqsa Mosque for two weeks.

An Israeli court held a trial for a number of them the following day.

Israeli forces detained six Palestinian women and a girl as they were leaving the mosque via the gates of Hitta , Asbat, and Annather.

The seven women were identified, by Al Ray, as Dina Tarwa, Zainab Tarwa, Ibtasam Tawil, Rania Ghazzawi, Jihad Al-Razzim, Suad Obaidiah, and Safa Imam.

Lawyer Khaled Zbarqa explained that Israeli forces detained the women under the mere pretext of them sitting in the eastern part of Al-Aqsa, near the Ar Rahmah Gate.

  1. Israel MK, arch-enemy of Masjid al-Aqsa live streams taking of wedding vows inside Masjid.

Right-wing Israeli Member of the Knesset, Rabbi Yehuda Glick entered the Al-Aqsa mosque, heading a group of extremist settlers, as part of a religious ritual to celebrate his wedding.

PNN correspondent in Jerusalem quoted eyewitnesses as saying that Glick documented the “sanctification of his marriage according to the Talmudic rite” by filming a live broadcast on his cell phone. His fiancee later entered the mosque.

One of the guards of the Al-Aqsa Mosque described the storming of Glick as a serious challenge of the Muslims and worshipers and an advanced ring in targeting the blessed mosque, which will be the main target for the upcoming Israeli elections.