As Muslim worshippers in Jerusalem took part in their Ramadan prayers, Israeli forces forcibly entered the al-Aqsa Mosque for a second consecutive night in a row on April 5. Hundreds of Palestinian Muslim worshippers were fired at with rubber bullets and stun grenades by Israeli security forces according to Al Jazeera. Six people were also wounded, according to the Palestinian Red Crescent, as Israeli police forced worshippers to leave the mosque. The al-Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem is recognized to be the third holiest site in the religion of Islam.
According to NPR the Israeli police raid on the al-Aqsa Mosque has triggered a spike in violence involving regional actors. Israeli police claimed that they were working to clear men who barricaded themselves inside the mosque while flinging fireworks and rocks at law enforcement officials, while numerous social media videos show Israeli police officers in riot gear chasing Palestinians and beating them inside the mosque, says NPR. Palestinians gathered inside the mosque overnight after fundamentalist Jewish groups called for an ancient Jewish Passover tradition of goat sacrifice to be held at the compound NPR furthers.
According to a status quo agreement set in place after the Israeli annexation of East Jerusalem, only Muslims are allowed to pray at the compound, but non-Muslims are allowed to visit, according to Al Jazeera. The compound is also supposed to be administered by the Jordanian government. Jews call the al-Aqsa compound the Temple Mount, which was once the location of the ancient Jewish Temple built by king David and destroyed by the Romans. It is the holiest site in Judaism. Jewish settler groups, including far-right ministers in the current government, have called for establishing a new Temple on top of the Muslim holy site for exclusive Jewish control and in the process destroying the al-Aqsa mosque, says The Intercept.
The raid was met with international condemnation, particularly from Muslim countries, and led to rockets being fired at Israel from Gaza and Lebanon. Israel responded with airstrikes in Southern Lebanon and the Gaza Strip. This latest campaign codenamed “Operation Strong Hand” is the most significant escalation in violence between Israel and Palestinian factions in Lebanon since the 2006 war between Lebanon and Israel, reports The Intercept.
The violence that is taking place on the ground and the confrontation between different regional actors occurs while Israel is dealing with the aftermath of anti-government protests over a controversial judicial proposal, according to CNN. On the Friday after the raid, the Israeli Air Force hit targets in Lebanon and Gaza claiming that they targeted Palestinian militants, reports The Guardian. According to a Reuters witness in southern Lebanon, the Israeli strike left a large crater in farmland near the Palestinian refugee camp of Rashidieh.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stated to the press following a security cabinet meeting that Israel’s recent operation and future operations will cause the nation’s enemies to pay a heavy price while a Hamas spokesman stated that they condemn what they perceived as a “Zionist Aggression” on Lebanon, Reuters says. The U.N. peacekeeping mission in Lebanon is reported to be in contact with all the parties and states that both sides claim not to seek war. The peacekeeping mission recognized that the current situation risked escalation and urged all parties to put an end to their current actions. According to the Associated Press a flock of sheep were killed during the Israeli strike Rashidieh Refugee camp, while the other strikes hit a bridge and a power transformer near Maaliya which resulted in the damaging of an irrigation system. During Israel’s recent bombings of the Gaza Strip, Israel bombed several targets that it claimed were Hamas weapons sites and underground tunnels. According to the Palestinian Health Ministry, a children’s hospital was among the sites that received damage, says the Associated Press.
Israeli journalist Gideon Levy informs Al Jazeera about how tensions between Israel and neighboring countries in the region were at a critical point and escalated after the raid on the Al-Aqsa Mosque. Aside from the rocket attacks from Lebanon and Gaza in response to the police raid on the mosque, several rocket attacks were also launched from Syria. Gideon Levy informs Al Jazeera that the Israeli air force has been carrying out several bombings over Syrian ports and airports claiming it is targeting Iranian backed militia groups, including the main facility in the city of Aleppo which has been used to drop off aid shipments for relief from the recent earthquake that hit northern Syrian and Türkiye back in February.
Image courtesy of The Kabul Times