On Friday, April 15 Israel attacked masjid al-aqs? in East Jerusalem injuring over 100 worshippers. For context, the site is the third most holy place in the Islamic tradition. Additionally, the site is the location of the temple mount which Jews hold to be sacred but are traditionally banned from entering until the coming of their Messiah which they do not believe has come.
The city has been under Israeli occupation since 1967 despite being internationally recognized as Palestinian territory. In previous weeks, Israel has also gone on offenses in Janin leading to Palestinian deaths. According to Al Jazeera, “Israeli authorities said they entered the compound on Sunday (the 17th) to facilitate routine visits by far-right Jews to the holy site and that Palestinians had stockpiled stones and set up barriers in the compound.” This led to 19 Palestinians being injured in defense of the site. The context is an extremist Jewish organization offering a reward for someone to defile the site by sacrificing a goat inside the mosque leading to more provocation. These events have provoked serious reactions both in and outside of Palestine.
The events at al-Aqsa have inspired a variety of reactions from many different factions and groups. The Palestinian Authority condemned the Israeli actions as an attempt to “Judaize Al-Aqsa Mosque.” according to Al Jazeera. Hamas, the group in control of Gaza, declared that “The head of Hamas warned Israel that “Al-Aqsa is ours and ours alone” and “Our people have the right to access it and pray in it, and we will not bow down to (Israeli) repression and terror,” Ismail Haniyeh said in a statement.
Pope Francis called for free access to the Jerusalem holy sites: “May Israelis, Palestinians and all who dwell in the Holy City, together with the pilgrims, experience the beauty of peace, dwell in fraternity and enjoy free access to the Holy Places in mutual respect for the rights of each”.
Marwan Bishara described the Israeli actions as “denying the Palestinians any sense of sovereignty over their most sacred site, which is the Noble Sanctuary,” and a continuing of neo-colonialism. For more context, last year’s assault on Al-Aqsa led to an 11-day bombardment of Gaza by Israel. The immediate context was Israel killing 4 Palestinians in Jenin ostensibly in response to attacks on Israelis even though not all those killed were responsible for the stabbings according to Al Jazeera. Observers are carefully watching if events escalate.