Israeli occupation forces attacked Jerusalem’s al-Aqsa mosque, wounding more than 150 Palestinians while it was filled with Ramadan worshippers on one of the holiest days in the Islamic calendar.
Six people sustained serious injuries during the hours-long assault on one of the world’s most significant religious sites on April 15, according to the Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR), and more than 400 were arrested.
The rights group said that the violence began after thousands of worshippers observed dawn prayers amid a “heavy” presence of Israeli occupation forces in the area, including on the rooftops of gates to the mosque compound.
After the dawn prayer, Palestinians placed wooden barriers around the al-Aqsa mosque prayer hall in anticipation of an Israeli raid, PCHR said, and fired firecrackers towards one of the gates where Israeli forces were stationed.
“Immediately, Israeli occupation forces raided the entire mosque with hundreds of troops” and fired live bullets, tear gas and stun grenades, PCHR added.
Video from inside the mosque shows sound grenades exploding inside the prayer hall and Israeli forces deploying inside.
Israeli forces closed off entry to the compound, preventing access to paramedics, and attacked mosque guards, health workers and media personnel.
Al Jazeera reported that one of the guards was shot in the eye with a rubber-coated bullet.
PCHR said that Israeli forces, including snipers, occupied the roof of the al-Aqsa mosque prayer hall and shattered windows so they could fire live and rubber-coated bullets and tear gas into the house of worship.
Israeli forces inside the mosque forced worshippers to lay down and “arrested hundreds,” PCHR added, before ordering those remaining to evacuate.
Three paramedics were injured during the assault, including one who was struck by a rubber-coated bullet in the neck.
Three journalists were injured, including photojournalist Rami Khatib, who was beaten by Israeli forces wielding batons and Al-Qastal Network reporter, Nasreen Salem, who was shot in the head with a rubber bullet while covering the events.
Israel’s foreign ministry attempted to spin the police raid on al-Aqsa as an effort to protect freedom of worship from “violent rioters desecrating the site and endangering the public,” though scores of videos show the opposite was the case.
Francesca Albanese, the newly appointed UN special rapporteur on human rights in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip, stated on Friday that “places of worship, as an extension of freedom of religion, must be protected, especially on holy days”.
She added that intentional attacks on civilians constitute war crimes under the Rome Statute founding the International Criminal Court.
That body opened up an investigation into war crimes in the West Bank and Gaza Strip last year.
Sheikh Ekrima Sabri, the imam of al-Aqsa, called the Israeli siege “a premeditated and orchestrated attack” that aimed to accommodate a raid on the holy site by Israeli extremists during the Passover holiday that began that evening.
Earlier in the week, an extremist Israeli group that seeks the destruction of the mosque and its replacement with a Jewish temple offered a cash prize for any attempted animal sacrifices at the al-Aqsa compound during Passover.
On April 14, Israel arrested six people on suspicion that they intended to perform such a ritual at the holy site.
Following the siege, the director of the mosque, Sheikh Omar al-Kiswani, called on worshippers to gather at the holy site “to perform Friday prayers and defend it”.
Ismail Haniyeh, the head of Hamas’ political office, said on April 15 that Palestinians and Muslims would defend and protect al-Aqsa “at any price”.
A similar Israeli assault on the holy site during Ramadan last year sparked a military confrontation between resistance factions in Gaza, led by Hamas, and Israel.
More than 250 Palestinians in Gaza, including at least 67 children, were killed during the 11 days of intense violence that followed. Palestinian armed groups meanwhile fired thousands of rockets from Gaza during the fighting, killing around a dozen people in Israel.
Palestinians in Gaza protested the April 15 Israeli attack on al-Aqsa and the deadly repression throughout the West Bank in recent weeks. Some called on Palestinian resistance factions to respond to the occupation violence.
Palestinians in Gaza reportedly headed to shops to stock up on essentials in anticipation of a possible major Israeli attack on the besieged territory.
Tens of thousands of worshippers reportedly prayed at al-Aqsa without major incident later in the day on April 15.
Israel imposed a lockdown on Palestinian movement from the West Bank and Gaza Strip at the outset of Passover, as is typical during major Israeli holidays.
A Palestinian child died on April 15 from injuries sustained the previous day during an arrest raid in Kafr Dan village near the northern West Bank city of Jenin.
Shawkat Kamal Shawkat Abed, 17, was shot in the stomach while Palestinian youths threw stones at Israeli soldiers withdrawing from the area.
“Suddenly and without warning, an Israeli soldier pointed his gun out the rear window of the last vehicle in the convoy and began indiscriminately shooting at protesters from a distance of approximately 25 meters,” striking the teen and 29-year-old Shas Kamamji, who died from his injuries on Thursday.
“Injuries suggest that Shawkat was struck with an exploding bullet that ruptured his blood vessels and veins,” Defense for Children International-Palestine stated.
“The use of expanding and exploding bullets is a violation of international humanitarian law and amounts to a war crime under the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court,” the rights group added.
“Shawkat is the eighth Palestinian child shot and killed by Israeli forces in 2022 and the third Palestinian child killed by Israeli forces this week,” DCIP said.
Eighteen Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces in the West Bank and Israel since the beginning of April.
[Abridged from Electronic Intifada.]