PHOTO: Mamoun Wazwaz/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
Israel and Palestinian groups exchanged aerial attacks on Monday night, as tensions in Jerusalem grow after 400 Palestinians were arrested by Israeli police at the Temple Mount, one of the holiest sites for Muslims, Jews and Christians. Israeli security forces arrested hundreds of Palestinians on Friday morning after dozens of Palestinians clashed with the police using rocks and fireworks. Riot police raided the main prayer court inside the al-Aqsa mosque on Temple Mount.
This weekend marked Passover and Ramadan, and the week leading to Orthodox Easter, key festivals for the Abrahamic religions. Many fear that the violence will escalate into intense fighting last seen in May 2021, when Israeli firepower flattened parts of the Gaza strip, killing hundreds of people.Thousands of worshipers of all three religions have been visiting the site in large numbers. Clashes erupted between the people gathered in Temple Mount, which includes the al-Aqsa Mosque, and the Western Wall which is one of the holiest sites in Judaism.
Relations between Arabs and Jews in the contested city have deteriorated over the last month after a string of Palestinian terrorist attacks across Israel. 11 people died and dozens were injured, the worst Islamist terror attacks the country has seen in years.The tension boiled over between Palestinian protesters and police in the early hours of Friday morning, a day before Passover began. Nearly 400 people were arrested and 152 were injured, according to the Palestinian Red Crescent emergency service. Israeli Police used batons and tear gas to disperse the crowd.Footage of Israeli police making arrests inside the mosque, and beating and pushing elderly people circulated on social media to wide criticism. Israel’s Iron Dome air defence system intercepted rockets fired by Palestinian armed groups on Monday from the Gaza Strip in their first ballistic attack since the beginning of this year.
After the attack on southern Israel, the Israeli army targeted a Hamas weapons manufacturing site during the early hours of Tuesday.The Palestinian Health Ministry said there were no casualties. This year, the violence has escalated after ISIS affiliates carried out a series of attacks in March. Israeli police have carried out intense raids in the Palestinian militant stronghold of Jenin in response, and 14 people have been killed. Dozens of people were arrested and homes demolished in what Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said would be a “no holds barred” retaliation for the loss of Israeli life.The new events echo the clashes in May 2021 over access to al-Aqsa and evictions in the occupied Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood, which spiralled into an 11-day war in the Gaza strip, killing 254 people in Gaza, and 13 in Israel. Israeli and Palestinian authorities accused one another of provocations during a busy time for observant Muslims and Jews. Passover ends on Saturday, and the month of Ramadan lasts until early May. The mosque will get busier towards the end of Ramadan.
Militant Islamist group Hamas has repeatedly said that attacks on Palestinians praying at the al-Aqsa Mosque are a “red line.” The Israeli government has accused the Palestinians of using the gathering for prayers for political goals. Bennett called it “a wild Hamas-led incitement campaign,” on Monday after his government came under international and regional criticism over the raids inside the mosque. Egypt and Jordan, who were heavily involved in brokering a truce for the last year’s war, have complained about Muslim worshippers being targeted and warned of further escalation.