21 August 2023

On this day in 1969, Masjid al-Aqsa faced one of its darkest hours of the Zionist war against it, in the context of plans to destroy and control it and establish the alleged “Temple” in its place.

At 6.20 in the morning of August 21, 1969, settler Denis Michael Rohan started a fire in the eastern region of Masjid al-Aqsa, and the inferno spread to large areas in the mosque, burning its facades, ceiling, carpets, and decorations.

The fire led to the destruction of three corridors extending from south to north, and part of the roof of the Masjid fell to the ground, in addition to devastation of Musalla Umar.

The fire devoured the historic pulpit that Salah al-Din al-Ayyubi brought from the city of Aleppo, after the Masjid was liberated from the Crusader occupation in 1187. It had previously been prepared by Nur al-Din Zangi in preparation for the day of liberation. The burned area in the Masjid amounted to more than 1,500 square meters, i.e more than a third of its area.

Rohan’s crime of burning the Masjid al-Aqsa was assisted by the occupation forces cutting off water from the surrounding areas and delaying the dispatch of municipal firefighting vehicles to contain the fire.

Palestinians from occupied Al-Quds and various nearby cities rushed towards the mosque, in an attempt to extinguish the fire, despite the cordon imposed by the occupation forces on the area, and the fire continued until twelve o’clock in the afternoon, and it almost devoured the dome of the mosque, had it not been for the strenuous efforts of the Palestinians to extinguish the fire.

Rohan is considered a follower of Christian Zionism, and one of the “messianic tendencies” that believe in the return of Christ, and that the condition for this is “the return of the children of Israel to the land of Palestine” and the construction of the alleged “Third Temple”.

Zionist sources reveal that Dennis previously tried to set fire to the al-Qibli Musallah, but failed, only to return later entering through the Asbat Gate to al-Ghawanmeh Gate. He then went to the al-Qibli Musallah, and took out a scarf that he had doused with gasoline and set it on fire, after he spread it on the steps of the stairs of the mimbar.

The occupation later released Rohan after allegations that he was suffering from a “mental illness”, although testimonies confirm that he did not display any symptoms of insanity.

Decades after Rohan’s crime, the messianic Zionist movement still stands behind the occupying state and its ongoing crimes against the Palestinians and Arabs, the most prominent example being senior leaders in the previous US administration, at the time of Donald Trump.

In these years, the settlement groups intensified their efforts to implement their plans to control Masjid al-Aqsa, in preparation for its demolition and the establishment of the “alleged temple” in its place.

The danger to Masjid al-Aqsa has recently reached fever pitch with the ascendancy of Jewish settler zealots in Israeli power structures. These elements support the “Temple” groups, who see the necessity of demolishing the structures of Al-Aqsa. A consensus exists between the Zionist currents, whether secular or religious, on the goal of controlling the mosque, but with different means and ideologies.

In the past weeks, Israeli media revealed a plan by settlement groups to burn five red cows, to achieve the so-called “purification”, which is one of the conditions included in a rabbinical decree believed in by a large part of the “Haredi” settlers, to remove this barrier and achieve major incursions into the mosque. A plan by a member of Knesset of the Likud party to divide the mosque and confine Muslims to the Qibli Musallah has also come to light.

After the arson attack on Masjid al-Aqsa in 1969, a cell of the Palestinian resistance in the villages of Bethlehem, including Dar Salah and Al-Obeidiya, responded to the crime. The fighter Muhammad Abu Dhahabiyya, along with members of his cell from the area, including Younis Al-Asa, Ismail Jadoua Al-Asa, and Ahmed Hussein Al-Asa, succeeded in smuggling missiles from Jordan, by means of an inflatable boat that sailed in the Dead Sea.

The cell transported the rockets on horseback to Beit Fajjar and then to Sur Baher, south of occupied Jerusalem, and from there they fired them towards the “Knesset” building. After the operation, the occupation forces imposed a tight siege on the villages of Dar Salah, Al-Obeidiya, Al-Shawra, and others, which was supervised by the former Minister of the Occupation Army, Moshe Dayan himself.

Today, the dangers are still looming over Masjid al-Aqsa.  It’s centrality to the struggle for Palestine and al-Quds was witnessed through the Jerusalem Intifada in 2015,  the popular movement against the installation of electronic scanners in 2017, the reopening of Bab al-Rahma, mobilisations at Bab al-Amoud, the battle for Sheikh Jarrah, “Saif al-Quds,” “Unity of Squares” and ” The Revenge of the Free”. It is only central to the mushrooming resistance in the West Bank. Ongoing mobilisation for Al-Aqsa is still very necessary in light of the accelerated Judaization and concerted settler forays into al-Aqsa and al-Quds, and requires collective efforts by Palestinians, Arabs and all Muslims.

Adapted from qudsn.co