International condemnations are mounting on Wednesday after nighttime violence erupted in the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, where Israeli police intervened to dislodge Palestinian worshipers, in the midst of religious holiday season.
Decked out in riot gear, Israeli police entered the mosque, one of the most iconic Muslim places of worship in the world, at night and arrested more than 350 people who had barricaded themselves there.
The clashes that erupted inside came as Muslims reached the middle of the month of Ramadan and Jews celebrated Passover from Wednesday evening, in a particularly tense atmosphere between Israelis and Palestinians since the start of the crisis. ‘year.
In the Gaza Strip, the Islamist movement Hamas called on Palestinians “to go en masse to the Al-Aqsa mosque to defend it”, denouncing an “unprecedented crime” by Israeli forces. Rockets were fired in the night towards Israeli territory leading to a response from the Israeli army.
“Leaders on both sides must act responsibly and refrain from any action that could escalate tensions,” United Nations (UN) Middle East mediator Tor Wennesland said in a statement. , saying he was “appalled” by the violence.
“More than ever, Israelis and Palestinians need to work together to reduce these tensions and restore calm,” said John Kirby, spokesman for the National Security Council, a body directly attached to President Joe. Biden.
“Violence has no place in a holy place and during a holy time,” said the US Office of Palestinian Affairs on Twitter.
Calm has returned to the site, the surroundings of which are heavily guarded by the Israeli police who filter the entrances.
The Al-Aqsa Mosque is located on the Esplanade of the Mosques in East Jerusalem, a Palestinian area occupied and annexed by Israel. The third holiest site in Islam, the esplanade is built on what the Jews call the Temple Mount, the holiest place in Judaism.
Overnight, Israeli forces armed with ‘batons, weapons, tear gas canisters and smoke bombs’ burst into the mosque, ‘breaking down doors and windows’ as worshipers gathered there to pray the night, claimed to theFrance Media Agency (AFP) Abdelkarim Ikraiem, a 74-year-old Palestinian.
A video widely circulated on social networks shows police clubbing people on the ground inside the building.
The Palestinian Red Crescent said on Wednesday it had treated at least 37 wounded.
Israeli police have released a video showing explosions of what appear to be fireworks inside the place of worship, with silhouettes throwing rocks.
Other footage shows police moving forward protecting themselves with shields, a barricaded door, batteries of fireworks on the ground and officers evacuating at least five people with their hands cuffed behind their backs.
The police specified that an agent had been injured by a stone in the leg and denounced the action of “outlaws” and masked “rioters” in the mosque.
“These leaders barricaded themselves there several hours after (the last evening prayers) in order to undermine public order and desecrate the mosque”, while chanting “slogans inciting hatred and violence”, she said in a statement, adding that she dislodged them after trying to start a dialogue.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the security forces had been “forced to act to restore order” in the face of “extremists”.
” Provocation “
Palestinian Civil Affairs Minister Hussein al-Sheikh blasted a “level of brutality requiring urgent Palestinian, Arab and international action” while Jordan, which administers the Muslim holy sites in Jerusalem, expressed alarm at ” ongoing attacks that may lead to escalation”.
The Arab League, which organized an extraordinary meeting, said it held Israel, the “occupying power”, responsible for the situation and warned against “provocations” offending “the feelings of believers”.
Following the clashes, at least nine rockets were fired overnight from the northern Gaza Strip into Israeli territory, according to AFP journalists and witnesses.
According to a tried-and-true scenario, the Israeli army retaliated by hitting what it presented as Hamas infrastructure in the territory under Israeli blockade.
The Islamic Jihad, another armed group present in Gaza, claimed that the rockets were “a first warning message” after the Israeli “aggression”.
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict has experienced a new outbreak of violence since the inauguration, at the end of December, of one of the most right-wing governments in the history of Israel. Nearly 110 people have died since the start of the year.
In May 2021, after violence on the compound and elsewhere in East Jerusalem, Hamas fired rockets into Israel, resulting in an 11-day war.