By Palestinian Centre for Human Rights
Press Release, 13 September 2015
The Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) storming al-Aqsa Mosque in the old city in occupied East Jerusalem by Israeli forces and their use of excessive force against the Palestinian civilians staying in the mosque to confront dozens of extremist settlers, who were preparing to storm the mosque on the eve of the Jewish holidays. Furthermore, PCHR denounces the deliberate damage caused by Israeli forces to the contents of al-Aqsa Mosque, including burning carpets, and smashing widows and umbrellas that protect worshipers in summer time. PCHR also warns against the Israeli government’s plans to apply the physical and time division of al-Aqsa Mosque. Therefore, PCHR calls upon the international community to promptly intervene and assume its legal and moral responsibilities to protect the Palestinian civilians and their holy sites in the occupied Palestinian territories (oPt). PCHR believes that the silence of the international community regarding these crimes encourages the Israeli government to continue its policies in violation of the international humanitarian law.
According to information collected by PCHR from the city, at approximately 05:45 on Sunday, 13 September 2015, when worshipers finished performing the dawn (Fajr) prayer in al-Aqsa Mosque and started getting out of the mosque, large numbers of special Israeli forces stormed al-Aqsa Mosque firing sound bombs and rubber-coated metal bullets. Israeli forces immediately closed the Qibli (southern) mosque while dozens of Israeli soldiers topped the roof of the mosque. They surrounded the young men staying inside and sprayed pepper spray over them. Officers from the special forces evacuated all al-Aqsa Mosque’s yards. In the morning, Israeli forces smashed the windows of al-Qibli Mosque and fired sound bombs and tear gas canisters at young men trapped inside, due to which the carpets caught fire. Moreover, Lo’ai Abu al-Sa’ed, one of the mosque’s guards, sustained a bullet wound to the chest; Jad al-Ghoul, a civil defense officer in al-Aqsa Mosque, sustained a bullet wound to the left arm; Anas Siyam (14) sustained a bullet wound to the chest; and Lewa Abu Ermaila, a journalist at Palestine Today satellite channel, and Sabreen Ebeidat, a photojournalist at Quds news network, both were injured by shrapnel from a sound bomb. An eyewitness stated that Israeli forces attacked and pushed Arab members of the Israeli Knesset, who could entered al-Aqsa Mosque, namely Ahmed al-Tibi, Osama al-Sa’di and Talab Abu ‚Arar.
This attack coincided with banning students of al-Aqsa Shari’a schools located inside the mosque (Riyadh al-Aqsa, al-Aqsa School for Boys and al-Aqsa School for Girls), who are about 500 female and male students, from entering the mosque and joining their schools. In addition, Israeli forces denied the administrative and educational employees entry by attacking and pushing them while being present by Hetta and al-Selsela gates. Israeli forces have also prevented worshipers below 45 years old from entering the mosque since the predawn.
Afterwards, groups of Israeli settlers led by the Minister of Agriculture, Uri Ariel, stormed the mosque through al-Maghareba gate. They performed biblical rituals in al-Hersh area near al-Rahma gate. It should be noted that the (Temple Groups) invited their supporters through media websites and social media to participate in the largest raid on al-Aqsa Mosque on Sunday, coinciding with the beginning of the Jewish holidays.
PCHR strongly condemns storming al-Aqsa Mosque and stresses that these attacks constitute integral part of the Israeli policies and measures implemented on the ground and announced by Israeli ministers, parties and settler leaders in the past months and years to seize control and Judaize al-Aqsa Mosque. It also reminds the international community that Israeli forces have been violating the rules of the 1949 Fourth Geneva Convention, and calls upon the international community to immediately act to stop the Israeli crimes. PCHR reiterates its call for the High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention to fulfil their obligations under article 1 of the Convention to respect and to ensure respect for the present Convention in all circumstances.