Israeli forces raid Al-Aqsa Mosque for second night in a row
Israeli forces stormed the Al-Aqsa Mosque in East Jerusalem on Wednesday for the second night in a row during Ramadan, following a brutal attack on worshipers at the site less than 24 hours earlier.
Thousands of Israeli armed officers entered the mosque’s courtyard while nearly 20,000 Palestinian worshipers were still performing the Ramadan Taraweeh night prayer.
Israeli forces fired rubber-coated bullets, tear gas and stun grenades at worshipers just before the prayer ended to disperse them and clear the mosque, eyewitness Firas al-Dibbs told Middle East Eye.
They also went after people, beating them with batteries and injuring some.
“They want to create a new reality. They want to empty Al-Aqsa Mosque of the Palestinians,” said al-Dibbs MEE. “What happened, especially yesterday, was devastating. The scale of the violence was shocking.”
A mosque volunteer, who preferred to remain anonymous, told MEE that the mosque was almost completely emptied of Palestinians within an hour.
The raid on Wednesday began a little earlier than the previous one on Tuesday, apparently in an attempt by Israeli forces to prevent worshipers from locking themselves inside the Qibli prayer hall.
Last night, hundreds of Palestinians barricaded themselves inside the Qibli hall – the building with the silver dome – to perform the Itikaf mental prayer and avoid the efforts of the police.
Itikaf is a non-compulsory religious practice common during Ramadan, when worshipers stay inside mosques overnight to pray, meditate and recite the Quran.
Israeli forces later stormed the Qibli mosque and fired stun grenades and tear gas into the thousand-year-old building, before throwing Palestinians to the ground, stomping on them, and tying their hands behind their backs. At least 400 people were arrested.
In Wednesday’s raid, police also targeted the Qibli prayer hall and cleaned it.
Earlier in the day, Israeli police limited the number of Palestinians allowed to enter the mosque, bringing the number of people able to attend the Taraweeh prayer down from 80,000 people on Tuesday to 20,000, according to Palestinian media.
The raids come ahead of a planned mass attack into the Al-Aqsa Mosque by Israeli settlers which is set to begin on Thursday and last a week to mark the Passover holiday.
Israeli forces routinely empty Palestinian mosques outside the five Muslim prayers, especially overnight and after dawn prayers to ensure the smooth invasion of Israeli settlers which occurs daily around 7:30 local time.
The Temple Movement groups, which facilitate settler incursions and advocate the destruction of Al-Aqsa, called for mass storms during the week-long Passover holiday that begins Wednesday.
The Al-Aqsa Mosque is an Islamic site where unsolicited visits, prayers and rituals by non-Muslims are prohibited, according to decades-old international agreements.
Israeli groups, in collaboration with the authorities, have long violated the sensitive settlement and facilitated raids on the site and conducted religious prayers and rituals.