Navigating Israeli Restrictions, Many Palestinians Find It Hard to Reach Al Aqsa

Navigating Israeli Restrictions, Many Palestinians Find It Hard to Reach Al Aqsa

As the sermon in regards to the Muslim holy month of Ramadan sounded over the audio system from Al Aqsa Mosque, 13-year-old Yousef al-Sideeq sat on a bench exterior the compound’s gates.

“Most Fridays they stop me from getting in, for no cause,” the younger Jerusalem resident stated, referring to the Israeli police.

Every Friday, Yousef visits Jerusalem’s Old City to hope at Al Aqsa, the third holiest web site for Muslims and a part of the compound sacred to Jewish individuals, who name it the Temple Mount. But for the reason that Hamas-led Oct. 7 assaults and Israel’s ensuing bombardment of Gaza, closely armed Israeli police forces who guard lots of the Old City’s gates have stopped him from getting into the compound, he stated.

He has managed to get in solely twice.

Muslim entry to the mosque has lengthy been a degree of rivalry as Israel has exerted tighter management in recent times over the compound, one among many restrictions Palestinians residing underneath many years of Israeli occupation have needed to endure.

As Ramadan begins, many additionally worry what, if any, further constraints Israel might impose on the non secular web site, which may draw 200,000 individuals in sooner or later from not simply Jerusalem however the Israeli-occupied West Bank and Israel as a complete.

The Israeli police stated that folks have been “getting into after enhanced safety checks which might be carried out as a result of present actuality, alongside efforts to stop any disturbances.” But they didn’t reply particular questions on whether or not there was a coverage stopping sure worshipers, particularly younger males, from getting into the mosque on Friday.

They stated they have been “sustaining a stability between the liberty of worship and the crucial of making certain safety.”

Late on Sunday, Palestinian and Israeli information media reported that law enforcement officials prevented many Palestinians from getting into Al Aqsa to carry out prayers for the beginning of Ramadan. Both media cited a video that confirmed officers with batons chasing and beating some Palestinians.

Israel has stated there was no change to the established order, which permits solely Muslims to worship on the compound. The web site is revered by Jews as the placement of two historic temples, and by Muslims because the Noble Sanctuary, the compound containing Al Aqsa Mosque and different essential Islamic prayer areas. The compound contains the Dome of the Rock, a gold-domed prayer corridor.

Israel captured East Jerusalem, together with the Old City and the Aqsa compound, from Jordan in 1967 and later annexed it. Much of the world considers it occupied territory and doesn’t acknowledge Israeli sovereignty over East Jerusalem.

Many Palestinians say their entry to Al Aqsa compound has change into more and more restricted in favor of Jews, who take into account the Temple Mount essentially the most sacred place in Judaism.

Incidents on the compound have at instances been the spark for broader conflicts. The second intifada, or Palestinian rebellion, was set off in 2000 when Ariel Sharon, who later grew to become Israel’s prime minister, visited Al Aqsa surrounded by a whole lot of law enforcement officials. Confrontations on the compound in May 2021 contributed to the outbreak of an 11-day warfare between Israel and Hamas.

Hamas, the Palestinian armed group which has been in command of Gaza for years, referred to as its Oct. 7 assault on southern Israel Al Aqsa Flood, saying it was partially a response to “Judaization plans” on the mosque.

The assault killed about 1,200 individuals, and a few 200 individuals have been taken hostage, based on the Israeli authorities. Israel’s assault on Gaza in its warfare in opposition to Hamas has killed greater than 30,000 Palestinians, based on Gazan well being officers.

In latest years, Jewish worshipers have prayed contained in the Aqsa compound. The most excessive search to construct a 3rd Jewish temple on the positioning of the Dome of the Rock.

Some of essentially the most provocative episodes have been raids into the Aqsa compound by baton-wielding police forces firing tear fuel and sponge-tipped bullets who’ve clashed with Palestinians throwing stones and setting off fireworks.

“Al Aqsa Flood got here as a response to the settlers’ violations in opposition to Al Aqsa,” stated Walid Kilani, a Hamas spokesman in Lebanon, referring to Jewish worshipers.

Israeli law enforcement officials “stormed the mosque and insulted the Muslim prayers there,” he added. “We needed to retaliate, as Al Aqsa is our holy web site and is talked about within the Quran.”

In the preliminary weeks of the warfare, solely Muslims ages 60 and older have been allowed in, stated Mohammad al-Ashhab, a spokesman for the Waqf — an Islamic belief that administers the mosque and that’s financed and overseen by Jordan.

Attendance at Friday Prayer, a Muslim holy day, dropped to only 1,000 from 50,000, he stated.

Though the state of affairs has improved since then, he stated, many Muslims are nonetheless prevented from attending.

Many Palestinians worry for the way forward for Al Aqsa, particularly whereas Israel’s most right-wing authorities ever is in energy.

Last week, the federal government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stated it had determined in opposition to placing new restrictions on Al Aqsa throughout Ramadan and would enable an analogous variety of worshipers as in earlier years.

In addition to longstanding Israeli restrictions on Muslims coming from the occupied West Bank, Itamar Ben-Gvir, the far-right nationwide safety minister, had referred to as on the federal government to impose limits this yr on Palestinian residents of Israel.

Still, the ambiguous language of the Israeli authorities’s determination has some involved. Human rights teams worry that freedom of worship might be curtailed underneath the guise of safety and security.

“Netanyahu’s assertion doesn’t truly assure full freedom of entry for Muslims to Al Aqsa, however relatively situations it on safety and security wants,” Ir Amim, an Israeli rights group that focuses on Jerusalem, stated in a press release following the choice. “This in flip might result in a call to finally apply collective entry restrictions throughout Ramadan.”

“Our freedom of worship has gone backwards,” Mr. al-Ashhab stated.

To attain Al Aqsa Mosque compound, Muslim worshipers on Friday needed to get by means of at the very least three layers of police barricades, the place the authorities prevented individuals from getting into, checked IDs or searched luggage. Many arrived with prayer rugs in hand.

AbdulAziz Sbeitan, 30, was speeding by means of a Muslim cemetery on the sting of the Old City, having been turned away from Lion’s Gate, one among seven entrances to the historic district. He was on the telephone with pals who have been attempting to enter from different gates.

The Jerusalem native has at all times attended Friday Prayer at Al Aqsa, however since Oct. 7 he hasn’t been in a position to get in as soon as. Each Friday he tries a number of gates.

Sometimes he accompanies an older girl or younger ladies in an effort to get by means of, however every time the police have pushed him again, he stated.

“It is a home of God and the home of our ancestors,” Mr. Sbeitan stated as he walked rapidly towards Herod’s Gate. “As Muslims, it is crucial; Al Aqsa is for Muslims.”

As he arrived at Herod’s Gate, he noticed many younger males being turned away, in some instances violently shoved by the police.

Mr. Sbeitan cursed underneath his breath as he lit a cigarette, watching. Around him different younger males provided recommendation and, in some instances, discouragement.

“Come, let’s attempt one other gate,” one stated to his pal.

“Guys, we tried all of the gates, they received’t allow you to in,” one other man advised them. “They allow us to in as soon as, after which as soon as we have been contained in the gate they pushed us again out.”

He stated the Israeli police advised him that younger males weren’t allowed to enter. Like many others, the person, a 28-year-old Jerusalemite, didn’t wish to give his identify for worry of retribution by the police.

It wasn’t simply younger single males being barred. Fathers with little kids and a few girls have been turned away as properly.

“It’s all based on their whims,” one girl stated as she walked away after being prevented from getting into by means of Lion’s Gate.

As the decision to prayer sounded inside Al Aqsa, Yousef, the 13-year-old, joined an impromptu gathering of dozens of younger males who couldn’t get in.

In previous weeks these prevented from praying inside Al Aqsa would collect within the streets and conduct their very own sermon and prayer. But on Friday it appeared even tougher because the Israeli police shoved them away from Lion’s Gate and farther exterior the partitions of the Old City.

Undeterred, one man started the decision to prayer, at instances barely audible over the sound of sirens and horns alongside the road, buses trundling previous and the police shouting.

Soon, one other man stepped on prime of a sidewalk stone barrier and commenced to offer a casual sermon.

“Will we not liberate Palestine?” stated the person, who gave his identify solely as Yousef, fearing retribution regardless of the danger he had already taken in main a sermon.

As he completed, extra closely armed law enforcement officials piled out of two automobiles.

The man appeared unfazed. He then led dozens — principally youngsters and males of their 20s and 30s — in prayer on a crowded Jerusalem sidewalk surrounded by two church buildings and the Tomb of the Virgin. The gold Dome of the Rock, the middle of the Aqsa compound, was barely seen over the Old City partitions.

Abu Bakr Bashir contributed reporting from London.



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