Al-Aqsa raid: Arab countries condemn ‘extremist’ Israeli attack on worshippers

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A brutal attack by Israeli forces on Palestinian worshipers at the Al-Aqsa Mosque in occupied East Jerusalem has been strongly condemned by Arab countries and has raised questions about the prospects for further normalization of ties with Israel.

Thousands of heavily armed officers stormed the site late on Tuesday night, using stun grenades and firing tear gas into the Qibli prayer hall, where hundreds of men, women, the elderly and children were staying overnight to pray.

Officers met worshipers with batons and riot guns, injuring many, before arresting them. Some eyewitnesses said that rubber-coated steel bullets were also fired.

The Arab League condemned the attack and warned of further escalation.

“The extremist approaches that govern Israeli government policy will lead to widespread conflict with the Palestinians if not ended,” Arab League Secretary General Ahmed Aboul Gheit said in a statement.

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The League said it would hold a meeting on Wednesday evening, after Jordan convened an emergency meeting with Palestinian and Egyptian officials.

Jordan’s foreign ministry said Arab efforts were underway to stop “Israeli violations that constitute a significant violation of international humanitarian law,” adding that such practices aimed to “destroy the historical and legal status of Jerusalem change”.

Saudi Arabia condemned the “blatant” attacks on worshippers, and said events at Al-Aqsa were followed by “deep concern”.

“Saudi Arabia condemns this blatant storming and expresses its rejection of these practices that undermine peace efforts and contradict international principles regarding religious sanctions,” Riyadh’s foreign ministry said in a statement .

‘These brutal criminal practices [are] serious aggravation and clear violation of the holy places, expansion of the policy of Jerusalem Judaism’

– Qatar Statement

He added that he supported efforts aimed at “ending the occupation and finding a just and comprehensive solution to the Palestinian cause”.

Qatar said it considered “the serious aggravation of these brutal criminal practices and a clear violation of the holy places, an extension of the policy of Judais Jerusalem, [and] violation of international law and the principles of international legitimacy.”

Doha described the attacks as “provoking the emotions of more than two billion Muslims around the world, especially in the holy month of Ramadan.”

Meanwhile, Egypt said it was “the occupying power responsible for this dangerous escalation, which could undermine the ceasefire efforts in which Egypt is negotiating with its regional and international partners”.

Normalization under threat

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Wednesday that Israel was working to ease the situation in Al-Aqsa.

“Israel is committed to maintaining freedom of worship, free access to all religions and the status quo, and will not allow violent extremists to change that,” he said in a statement.

However, the latest attacks – among other recent escalations in Israeli violence – could affect Israel’s efforts to foster and build ties with Arab nations.

Al-Aqsa Mosque Raid: How a night of worship became a night of Israeli brutality

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In 2020, Israel established diplomatic relations with the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Morocco and Sudan as part of the so-called Abraham Accords, brokered by former US President Donald Trump.

Palestinians have slammed the agreement, which they say violates the long-standing position of the Arab League that relations with Israel should be normalized only in exchange for a Palestinian state.

The UAE criticized Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich last month for denying the existence of the Palestinian people.

Earlier this year, the Emiratis denounced a provocative visit by National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir to Al-Aqsa, which reportedly canceled Netanyahu’s visit to the UAE.

Israel’s abuses against Palestine have continued despite occasional criticism from countries with which it has strengthened ties, some of whom have suggested that the normalization process may be over.

“The Abraham Accords have had no tangible positive results for the Palestinians,” Andreas Krieg, an assistant professor at King’s College London’s Department of Defense Studies, told Middle East Eye.

“The main problem [is] that no condition has been placed on Israel that would punish [it] for bad behaviour.

“Everything we have seen in the last few weeks, especially since the pogrom in Huwwara and another unilateral escalation by Israel against the Palestinians, despite all this … nothing has really changed. ”

‘The Abraham Accords are dead in terms of having any tangible positive results for the Palestinians’

– Andreas Krieg, analyst

Israel has expressed its ambition to continue signing normalized deals with Arab nations, and is particularly hopeful of persuading Saudi Arabia.

Riyadh has insisted that it will not normalize ties until the Palestinians are granted statehood.

Krieg said a new initiative outside the framework of existing normalized markets, committed to a two-state solution, would be needed for the likes of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Qatar to consider strengthening ties.

“The Israelis would have to take a meaningful step towards peace in Palestine, a meaningful step not only to stop building settlements, but to withdraw from. [them],” he said.

“That’s nothing happening, Israel is becoming more and more an authoritarian democracy, run by fascists and ultra-radical fundamentalists.”

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