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Al-Aqsa: Israeli forces storm the mosque complex ahead of far-right procession

Israeli forces stormed the mosque complex in the Old City of Jerusalem, firing tear gas and other projectiles at protesters and worshippers
Palestinian protesters run for cover from tear gas fired by Israeli security forces at Jerusalem's Al-Aqsa mosque compound on 10 May 2021 (AFP)

Hundreds of Palestinians have been injured by rubber bullets and tear gas as Israeli security services continued to crack down on demonstrations in and around the Old City of Jerusalem.

According to the Palestinian Red Crescent, 215 Palestinians have been injured and 153 others hospitalised, including four in a critical condition, as Israeli forces raided the al-Aqsa mosque complex, firing multiple projectiles into the ancient building.

A spokesperson for the Jerusalem emergency medical services said Israel was denying medics access to the mosque and had even confiscated some carts used to evacuate the wounded.

'Al-Aqsa, Ramadan, women: there are no lines which have not been crossed'

- Hanady Halawani, activist

The scenes have taken place against a backdrop of the planned eviction of 40 Palestinians from the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood of occupied East Jerusalem, which has enflamed tensions and provoked international condemnation.

An Israeli lower court ruling earlier this year backing Israeli settlers' decades-old claim to the plots infuriated Palestinians.

A Supreme Court hearing on a Palestinian appeal had been set for Monday, but with a day to go, the Israeli justice ministry delayed the court hearing.

Nevertheless, in a continued show of solidarity with residents in Sheikh Jarrah, Palestinians took to the streets in cities across Israel, as well as in the occupied West Bank and besieged Gaza Strip. 

Speaking to Middle East Eye in Jerusalem, Palestinian activist Hanady Halawani described an alarming situation at al-Aqsa Mosque and around the walls of the Old City.

“There have been raids on the 28th night of Ramadan, which started even before this date... When there are attacks like the ones at Damascus Gate, of course people are going to be afraid, especially children, women and everyone going to al-Aqsa.”

Halawani said many had been wounded on Monday, and journalists covering the raid had also been targeted by Israeli forces.

She added that Israeli police stormed al-Aqsa’s Qibli shrine, located in the southern part of the complex, as people were praying.

“We have reached a new point now, and it’s very dangerous. The occupation has crossed all the red lines and all the feelings of Muslims. Al-Aqsa, Ramadan, women: there are no lines which have not been crossed,” she said.

The director of Jerusalem's Endowments Department also told Al Jazeera Arabic that Israeli forces had confiscated the keys to all entrances to al-Aqsa complex.

Far-right rally planned

The unrest comes as Israelis prepared to celebrate Jerusalem Day, which commemorates Israel's capture of east Jerusalem during the 1967 war.

Far-right settler groups have planned a march through the mostly Palestinian Old City, which many fear could provoke further strife.

Itamar Ben-Gvir, a politician for the far-right Otzma Yehudit party, tweeted on Monday morning that Israel had "lost sovereignty" in Jerusalem.

Live: Israeli forces violently storm al-Aqsa Mosque
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"It is time to liberate the Temple Mount and Jerusalem, and show them who owns the house once and for all," he wrote.

In his tweet he also shared a video appearing to show an Israeli car ramming into a number of Palestinians teens, who had been throwing rocks.

The al-Aqsa compound, one of the holiest sites in Islam, is the holiest site in Judaism and is referred to as the Temple Mount, the site of two Biblical temples.

While the status quo in Jerusalem for centuries has seen Jews praying at the Western Wall of the compound, some religious nationalists in Israel believe Jews should construct the Third Temple on the site and begin worshipping there.

The prospect of the so-called Flag March adding fuel to the fire after a week of confrontations in the city has prompted Israeli security officials to lobby politicians to either postpone the march or limit the number of attendees and shorten the route.

International condemnation

Much of the international community has moved to condemn the violence in Jerusalem and urge restraint from the Israeli security services.

US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan spoke with his Israeli counterpart Meir Ben-Shabbat late on Sunday, where he raised "serious concerns" over imminent evictions of Palestinians in Sheikh Jarrah and the violence that occurred over the weekend in Jerusalem.

"Mr Sullivan highlighted recent engagements by senior US officials with senior Israeli and Palestinian officials and key regional stakeholders to press for steps to ensure calm, deescalate tensions, and denounce violence," National Security Council Spokesperson Emily Horne said in a statement.

"Mr. Sullivan also reiterated the United States' serious concerns about the potential evictions of Palestinian families from their homes in the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood."

Still, while issuing concern regarding evictions in Sheikh Jarrah, Sullivan used far stronger language in response to the launching of rockets from Gaza, saying it "is unacceptable and must be condemned".

Fahrettin Altun, communications director for the Turkish government, called for solidarity from Islamic countries in a tweet on Monday morning.

"To the Islamic world, we say: It’s time to stop Israel’s heinous and cruel attacks! To humanity, we say: It’s time to put this apertheid (sic) state in its place! That is our historic and human responsibility. We will keep fighting this oppressive order even if we are left all alone," he wrote.