Jerusalem: Escalating tension in the world’s third holiest site for Muslims, deputy Knesset speaker along with dozens of Jewish settlers have broken into Al-Aqsa mosque compound, as Israeli Public Security Minister threatened to close the holy site to Muslim worshippers.
“The Israeli police allowed [Moshe] Feiglin to storm the mosque’s courtyards under their protection,” Sheikh Azzam al-Khatib, head of the Jordan-run Organization for Muslim Endowments and Al-Aqsa Affairs, told Anadolu Agency on Monday, October 13.
The attack occurred as Israeli Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovich threatened on Monday to close the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound to Muslim worshippers in the first such threat since 1967.
The serious desecrations of holy site by the Knesset member and settlers followed Monday’s morning clashes between Muslim worshippers and the Israeli police.
Firing teargases and stun grenades against Muslims, the Israeli police tried to forcibly evict Palestinians from the area, leaving at least 10 worshippers with temporary asphyxiation.
“The Israeli police are still besieging an unspecified number of worshippers inside al-Qibali Mosque [inside the compound] amid firing of stun grenades and teargas at the worshippers within,” al-Khatib added as sounds of teargas firing resounded in the background.
While all gates were closed to prevent Palestinian employees and Muslim religious students from entering Al-Aqsa, about 60 Jewish settlers forced their way into the holy site, according to the Palestinian NGO Al-Aqsa Foundation for Endowments and Heritage.
“The occupation forces are besieging al-Qibali Mosque and firing a shower of teargas canisters and stun grenades at the worshippers who took refuge in the mosque following the dawn prayers when the Israeli forces stormed the site,” the foundation said in a statement.
“The military intrusion in such an early hour is a dangerous escalation,” the NGO added.
Al-Aqsa is the Muslims’ first Qiblah [direction Muslims take during prayers] and it is the third holiest shrine after Al Ka`bah in Makkah and Prophet Muhammad’s Mosque in Madinah, Saudi Arabia.
Its significance has been reinforced by the incident of Al Isra’a and Al Mi’raj — the night journey from Makkah to Al-Quds and the ascent to the Heavens by Prophet Muhammad (Peace and Blessings be Upon Him).
Jordan has been supervising Al-Aqsa Mosque and other endowments in Al-Quds since 1948.
A 1994 peace treaty between Jordan and Israel recognizes Jordan’s special supervisory role over holy sites in Al-Quds.
Monday’s clashes in the holy site were condemned by UN chief Ban Ki-moon who was “deeply concerned by repeated provocations at the holy sites in Jerusalem”.
Urging both side to revive the stalled peace talks, Ban said: “The situation can only be resolved as part of a broader political horizon that ends a nearly half century of [Israeli] occupation and leads towards a two-state solution with the state of Palestine coexisting with Israel in peace and security.
“Time is not on the side of peace. We need to act immediately to prevent a deepening of an already unsustainable status quo.”
Last week’s aggressions on Al-Aqsa mosques by Israeli forces and Jewish settlers have sparked anger among World Muslims who condemned the attacks, calling to prosecute the assailants.
The clashes left dozens of Palestinians injured, while several suffered a teargas inhalation.
According to eyewitnesses, dozens of Jewish settlers could make their way through the holy site to celebrate the Jewish holiday of Sukkot, also known as “Harvest Feast”.
Ban made his remarks during his visit to the West Bank city of Ramallah on Monday, October 13, which comes a day after the international donor conference of Gaza that made a pledge of $5.4 billion to rebuild Gaza after last summer’s war.
As the UN chief described reconstructing Gaza an “important” step, Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah urged the international community to “pressure” Israel not to hamper the construction process.
“The Gaza reconstruction program will be useless if the crossings are not open,” the Palestinian premier said.
“The Palestinian government will be in charge of the process.”
Israel has launched relentless airstrikes against Gaza on July 8 where more than 2,100 have been killed and thousands injured.
Out of 2,131 Palestinians who died in the latest fighting, 501 were children, said the United Nations. About 70% of the children killed were under 12, according to the UN children’s agency, UNICEF.
The large scale of mass destruction in Gaza has left about 5,510 homes completely destroyed and about 31,000 partially damaged, forcing tens of thousands to flee their homes that were caught up in the Israeli air strikes.