Israeli police assaulted Palestinians inside the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in occupied East Jerusalem on Wednesday evening for the second consecutive night during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, just hours after being widely condemned for an earlier attack.
"Dozens of armed Israeli officers entered the courtyards of the mosque while nearly 20,000 Palestinian worshipers were still performing the Ramadan Taraweeh night prayer,"
Middle East Eyereported. "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... They also chased after people, beating them with batons and wounding some."
Israeli forces injured at least six people during their latest storming of the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound,
according to the Palestine Red Crescent Society. On Thursday morning, Israeli officers prevented Palestinians from entering the mosque for the Fajr prayer while allowing Israeli settlers to enter the compound.
"They want to create a new reality," eyewitness Firas al-Dibbs told
Middle East Eye. "They want to empty Al-Aqsa Mosque of Palestinians."
"What happened, especially yesterday, was catastrophic," said al-Dibbs, referring to the
preceding overnight raid. "The scale of violence was shocking."
During the first attack of the week, which began late Tuesday night and stretched into Wednesday morning, Israeli police officers injured at least a dozen peaceful worshipers and arrested more than 400.
Of the 450 Palestinian men taken into custody, 397 have been released with a one-week ban from entering the Al-Aqsa Mosque, according to the Palestinian Commission of Detainees' Affairs. Forty-seven of the prisoners who live in the occupied West Bank have been transferred to the Ofer military prison and six remain incarcerated in Jerusalem.
Al Jazeerareported Thursday that Israeli police have shut down access to the Al-Aqsa Mosque for Palestinian men under the age of 40. This restriction comes after Israel reportedly reduced the number of people allowed to attend the Taraweeh prayer from 80,000 on Tuesday to 20,000 on Wednesday.
Tuesday night's "barbaric" raid, which eyewitnesses say was far worse in person than what is shown in disturbing video footage, elicited denunciations from around the world, as Common Dreamsreported Wednesday.
Leaders from Hamas and the Palestinian Authority described the attack as criminal and called on people to defend the mosque.
Jordan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Turkey, Germany, and Canada all issued statements either condemning or expressing concerns about the assault. The United States also expressed concern even as it continues to provide $3.8 billion in annual military support to Israel, an anti-democratic regime that numerous human rights groups have characterized as an apartheid state.
Following its emergency meeting in Cairo on Wednesday, the Arab League issued a statement urging the United Nations Security Council to intervene to halt Israeli violence.
"These crimes escalated dangerously in the past days of Ramadan," the League
said, "and led to hundreds of injuries and arrests of worshipers, incursions and deliberate desecration of the sanctity of Al-Aqsa Mosque by extremist Israeli officials and settlers under the protection of the occupation forces."
The Al-Aqsa Mosque compound is Islam's third-holiest site "where unsolicited visits, prayers, and rituals by non-Muslims are forbidden, according to decadeslong international agreements,"
Middle East Eye explained. "Israeli groups, in coordination with authorities, have long violated the delicate arrangement and facilitated raids of the site and performed prayers and religious rituals."
Malaysia and neighboring Indonesia—the largest Muslim-majority country in the world—on Wednesday
joined the Arab League in demanding an international response. The U.N. Security Council, said Malaysia, should "hold the Israeli regime accountable and responsible for the heinous crimes, and for them to release immediately all Palestinian detainees."
U.N. Middle East envoy Tor Wennesland, for his part,
said Wednesday that "this holy period and places of worship should be for safe and peaceful religious reflection." The diplomat implored all parties to "act responsibly and refrain from steps that could escalate tensions."
However, just hours after people across the globe expressed outrage and called for restraint, Israeli forces renewed their attack on the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound.
Middle East Eye reported: "The raid on Wednesday started slightly 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. [Tuesday] night, hundreds of Palestinians barricaded themselves inside the Qibli hall—the building with the silver dome—to perform the contemplative prayer of Itikaf and avoid attempts by police to remove them. Itikaf is a non-mandatory religious practice that is common during Ramadan, when worshipers stay inside mosques overnight to pray, reflect, and recite the Quran."
Following Tuesday night's intensification of anti-Palestinian brutality, protests erupted in the occupied West Bank, Gaza, and Umm al-Fahm, a Palestinian town in Israel. Demonstrations have since spread to other cities, but Israeli police have violently dispersed them and arrested several people.
fired from the Gaza Strip toward Israel early Wednesday morning. In response, the Israeli military launched a series of airstrikes on the besieged enclave. More rockets were fired from Gaza on Thursday after Wednesday night's storming of the Al-Aqsa Mosque.
Also in the wake of Wednesday night's attack, several rockets were
fired into Israel from southern Lebanon on Thursday. The Israeli military responded to its northern neighbor with artillery fire, raising fears of a broader regional conflagration.
The final two weeks of Ramadan coincide with Passover—a weeklong Jewish holiday that started on Wednesday—prompting concerns about further violence in the Occupied Palestinian Territories and beyond.
The raids on Tuesday and Wednesday "come ahead of planned mass incursions into Al-Aqsa Mosque by Israeli settlers set to start on Thursday and last a week," according to
Middle East Eye. "Israeli forces regularly empty the mosque of Palestinians outside the five Muslim prayers, especially overnight and after dawn prayers to ensure a smooth incursion of Israeli settlers that takes place daily around 7:30 am local time. Temple Movement groups, which facilitate the settler incursions and advocate for the destruction of Al-Aqsa, have called for mass stormings throughout the weeklong Passover holiday."
"They have also called for conducting ritual animal slaughter at the site which could trigger anger from Palestinians and Muslims worldwide," the outlet
noted. "Palestinian groups have urged mass presence at the site this week to prevent the planned animal slaughter and mass incursions."
Israeli attacks on the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in May 2021 preceded a deadly 11-day offensive on the Gaza Strip. Some commentators have argued that Israel is seeking to heighten anti-Arab violence now as a way to blunt internal opposition to the far-right's attempted judicial coup.
"What we see today is a very serious provocation that will definitely lead to an escalation, and maybe this is exactly what the Israeli government wants," Mustafa Barghouti of the Palestinian National Initiative told Al Jazeera. "They want to distract attention from their internal division, from the demonstrations that are taking place inside Israel against this government, and they want to drag the whole region into a total explosion."
Speaking with journalists on Wednesday, U.N. spokesperson Stéphane Dujarric
said that the body's secretary-general, António Guterres, had been "shocked and appalled by the images" he had seen from inside the Al-Aqsa Mosque.
"At a time of the calendar which is holy to Jews, Christians, and Muslims, this should be a time for peace and not violence," said Dujarric. "Places of worship should only be used for peaceful religious observances."
The U.N. Security Council is set to hold a closed-door emergency session on Thursday to discuss recent Israeli assaults on peaceful Palestinian worshipers at the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound.