Opinion piece: Israel’s Assault on Al-Aqsa and Plans to Upend the Status Quo

The Israeli government may have backed down on the imposition of metal detectors at the entrances to Al-Aqsa Mosque, but it has not yet allowed situation to return to pre-July 14 status quo.

From The Arab Centre for Research and Policy Studies

Introduction

Following more than two weeks of Palestinian civil disobedience in Jerusalem, Israel has removed a barrier which had served to prevent Muslim Palestinians from worshipping at the Al Aqsa Mosque. A stabbing attack on July 14, when Palestinian citizens of Israel killed two Israeli policemen before being killed themselves, gave the Israeli occupying powers in East Jerusalem the opportunity to put into place a premeditated plan for radical change in the status quo[1] of the Al Aqsa Mosque compound, a site venerated by Muslims worldwide[2]. Following the incident, Israeli authorities closed the mosque to Palestinian worshipers, and evacuated Waqf employees including the Palestinian guards working there, arresting and interrogating dozens of them. Additionally, and for the first time since 1967, the Israeli municipality in West Jerusalem sent garbage trucks and a number of cleaners to the Al Aqsa compound under the pretext of cleaning the mosque buildings. This task is traditionally reserved for the Waqf offices in Jerusalem, a religious trust which is funded by the Jordanian government. The use of the West Jerusalem municipality was seen as an effort by Israel to assert sovereignty over Al Aqsa which, as a part of East Jerusalem, remains occupied Palestinian territory.

Following two days of closure, the Israeli authorities installed metal detectors at the entrances to the mosque compound, suggesting that Palestinian Muslim worshippers would have to pass through them to enter Al Aqsa. Palestinians had successfully campaigned to prevent such metal detectors being installed in 2014. The diverse Palestinian leadership in occupied East Jerusalem, including religious figures and political leaders, were in unison in decrying the imposition of the metal gates and demanded that they be removed before entering the compound. The principle driving the Palestinian demands is their complete rejection of Israeli attempts to change the status quo and impose Israeli sovereignty over the Al Aqsa Mosque Compound, also known as the “Haram ash Sharif” (“Noble Sanctuary” in Arabic).

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