On April 15, Israeli forces raided the al-Aqsa Mosque compound, armed with assault weapons, stun grenades, and tear gas, as Palestinian worshippers gathered for early morning Friday prayers. The attack left more than 150 injured and hundreds more detained in what has become a ritualized form of violence during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan.
Israel defended the raid, saying it was clearing worshippers from the mosque compound to make way for Israeli settlers to enter the occupied East Jerusalem holy site and hold prayers to observe the Jewish Passover holiday.
But videos shared on social media show Israeli security forces viciously beating anyone who dared to stand in their way. Nobody was spared from their vindictive cruelty, not the elderly, women, children, medics, nor journalists. The raids and attacks on Palestinian worshippers continued Saturday, Sunday, and Monday.
Israeli security forces viciously beat anyone who dared to stand in their way.
Rami al-Khatib, a photojournalist who witnessed the raid, said in an interview, “They [Israeli forces] brutally emptied the compound. They were attacking the mosque staff, ordinary people, elders, young people. There were many injured people, they fired rubber bullets inside al-Aqsa Mosque compound. They were beating everyone, even the paramedics, they hit them,” said al-Khatib, who suffered a broken hand.
Islam’s third holiest site has not seen this kind of violence since Israeli forces raided and ransacked the mosque during Ramadan last year, which, in turn, sparked an 11-day military offensive on Gaza, leaving 256 Palestinian civilians dead, including 64 children.
If your only source of information were the governments that signed the US-brokered Abraham Accords, namely UAE, Bahrain, Morocco, and Sudan, then you would believe there’s not a whole lot to see here. Each has offered only muted or tepid condemnations of Israel’s violent assault on civilians.
In fact, the day after the raid, the UAE announced plans to establish the first Jewish neighborhood in the Arab Gulf for Israeli expatriates and other Jewish migrants. The Palestinian people have never been so alone, and so cut off from their traditional allies.
“Never has the gulf between the Arab street and their governments yawned as wide as it has this week over Palestine,” commented David Hearst, Middle East Eye’s editor-in-chief, who says the crisis that has developed around al-Aqsa Mosque has “yielded many precedents.”
“It’s the first time the mosque has been closed to Friday prayers since 1969; it’s the first time in centuries it has been boycotted by worshippers; it’s the first time that the Palestinian citizens of Israel and residents of Jerusalem are at the center of the conflict,” he said.
The signatories to the US-brokered Abraham Accords promised “normalization” would usher in a “biblical era of peace to the Middle East,” but it has only given Israel a free hand to repeatedly carry out violent raids on Islam’s third holiest site without fear of repercussions from its Arab neighbors.
The Abraham Accords has given Israel a free hand to repeatedly carry out violent raids on al-Aqsa.
After all, if Arab governments can muster only a muted or tepid response to violent raids against Muslim worshippers at one of Islam’s godliest sites, and during Islam’s holiest month, then what really does Israel have to fear?
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[Arab Normalization Emboldens ‘Third Temple’ Israeli Fanatics]
The answer is nothing, which is why Israel has attacked the mosque twice since signing the Abraham Accords, once during Ramadan 2021 and three times and counting during Ramadan 2022. It is therefore not unreasonable to conclude that Israel’s right-wing government is sending aloft a test balloon, or trial run, for its often-stated aim of seizing the Temple Mount and constructing a Third Temple atop the ruins of the Dome of the Rock.
For years, Israeli settlers have ignored the agreement signed between Jordan and Israel, which allows non-Muslims to visit al-Aqsa only under the supervision of the Jerusalem Islamic Waqf. The incursions of the compound that occurred last Friday under the protection of Israeli forces violated that agreement.
But the Abraham Accords put Israel’s powerful settler movement within striking distance of fulfilling its goal of erecting a Third Temple, as I reported for Inside Arabia last year.
As always, the devil is in the details. The joint statement signed by Israel, the UAE, and Bahrain on August 13, 2020, reads, “All Muslims who come in peace may visit and pray at the al-Aqsa Mosque, and Jerusalem’s other holy sites should remain open for peaceful worshippers of all faiths.”
The Abraham Accords’ choice of terminology will have “far-reaching and potentially explosive ramifications.”
This wording is deliberately deceptive, because it defines anything that is not al-Aqsa mosque as one of “Jerusalem’s other holy sites,” leaving open the possibility of Jewish prayer and then ultimately –– Israeli sovereignty over the compound. The Israeli non-governmental organization Terrestrial Jerusalem warns the Abraham Accords’ choice of terminology will have “far-reaching and potentially explosive ramifications.”
Khaled Zabarqa, a Palestinian lawyer specializing in al-Aqsa affairs, told Al Jazeera the UAE-Israel statement “very clearly says the mosque is not under Muslim sovereignty” and “gives a green light for Israeli sovereignty.”
Given the Israeli government and military has seized and annexed so much of the sovereign territory Palestinians once held in East Jerusalem, with more than 15,000 Palestinian legal residencies revoked since 1967, the al-Aqsa Mosque has been described as their “last stand” against ethnic cleansing in the occupied Palestinian territory.
This last stand will be fought by the Palestinians isolated and alone, but that doesn’t mean it won’t be fought long and hard. Recall that it was then-opposition leader Ariel Sharon’s invasion of al-Aqsa Mosque in 2000 that ignited the five-year-long Second Intifada. This is why many are warning that Israel is playing with fire by ramping up settler incursions and raids by security forces on the holy site, while right-wing politicians, including Moshe Feiglin, head of the Zehut Party, vow to build a Third Temple “right away.”
Diplomatically isolated, the Palestinians are left with no other choice than to defend their sovereignty with violent resistance, which Israel will use as a pretext to justify even more illegal and repressive measures to take control of Islam’s third holiest site.