Violent clashes pitted the Israeli police on Wednesday, April 5 against what they presented as “rioters” in the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, one of the most emblematic Muslim places of worship in the world. These events led to 350 arrests.
denouncing “an unprecedented crime”, the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas, in power in the Gaza Strip, has called on Palestinians in the West Bank “to go en masse to the Al-Aqsa mosque to defend it”.
It is located on the Esplanade of the Mosques, the third holiest site in Islam, in East Jerusalem, the Palestinian sector of the Holy City occupied and annexed by Israel. The esplanade is built on what the Jews call the Temple Mount, the holiest place in Judaism.
Clashes in the middle of Ramadan
The violence comes shortly before the middle of Ramadan and as Jews prepare to celebrate Passover from Wednesday evening, and in a climate of rising tensions between Israelis and Palestinians since the beginning of the year.
Israeli police have released video footage of more than 50 seconds showing explosions of what appear to be fireworks inside the place of worship, including figures throwing rocks. Another police video footage shows riot police advancing through the mosque shielding themselves from rocket fire with shields.
The Israel Police version
Footage then shows a barricaded door, batteries of fireworks on a carpet on the floor, and police evacuating at least five people with their hands cuffed behind their backs.
“Tonight, as the police worked to allow large numbers of Muslims to celebrate the month of Ramadan and arrive in the Old City of Jerusalem and on the Temple Mount, several young masked outlaws and agitators brought inside the mosque (Al-Aqsa) fireworks, sticks and stones,” Israeli police wrote in a statement.
“These ringleaders barricaded themselves there several hours later. (the last evening prayers) in order to undermine public order and desecrate the mosque”, while chanting “slogans inciting hatred and violence”, add the text.
“After numerous and long unsuccessful attempts to get them out through dialogue, the police forces were forced (to intervene) to dislodge them in order to allow the holding (from the first dawn prayers) and to prevent violent disturbances”, continues the police.
During the intervention, “a large group of agitators” shot fireworks and threw stones inside the mosque towards the police, police wrote, indicating that an officer had been injured by a stone in the leg. The law enforcement agencies have “arrested the rioters”Who “caused damage to the mosque and desecrated it”adds the text without specifying the number of people detained.
After the announcement of the clashes at the Al-Aqsa mosque, several rockets were fired from the northern Gaza Strip towards Israeli territory. AFP journalists saw three rockets fire from afar, and witnesses said they saw others. The Israeli army reported the triggering of warning sirens in several Israeli urban areas around the Gaza Strip.
The Israeli army indicated for its part that five rockets fired in the direction of Israeli territory had been “intercepted by anti-aircraft defense” in the area of Sderot (southern Israel), and that four other rockets fell in uninhabited areas. None of these shootings were claimed.
In Gaza, a few dozen demonstrators took to the streets in several places overnight, burning tires. “We swear to defend and protect the Al-Aqsa Mosque,” they proclaimed.