The Al-Aqsa mosque is one of the greatest foundations of religious practice in the Jerusalem region. Despite all the ruckus around the building, it has never lost its sense of peace and quiet that surrounds its majestic aura. However, it seems that even this mosque will lose the ambience it had when all the people praying inside now have to pray outside—and this prayer does not seem to be of peace, but of rage and dispute.
On July 27, 2017, the Israeli authorities lifted the restrictions and other measures that kept the Muslim population from praying at the Al-Aqsa Mosque, one of the most cherished landmarks of religious practice among Muslims. There was much bloodshed involved between the Muslims and Jewish police regarding the issuance of such regulations. Tensions around the Al-Aqsa Mosque have always been high, but recent events surrounding it seems to be the most troubling and potentially dangerous.
The Shooting That Triggered Everything
The regulations of the Israeli police and government were not completely unjustified. On July 14, 2017, there was a deadly shooting incident that killed one Palestinian man and two Israeli police officers. The three gunmen that initially fired the gun were killed in the gunfight that came after the initial shooting, leaving no evidence as to why they fired guns in the first place. This overruled the possibility that this was an attack that was politically or religiously charged, but the Israeli government, enraged at the loss of its police force, proceeded to lock down the mosque entirely for its routine Friday prayers for the first time since 1969.
The Choking Starts
The first regulations of Al-Aqsa Mosque included metal detectors to make sure that none of the individuals were carrying machine guns or other types of weapons, especially explosives under their clothing. However, this sparked the controversy that the Israeli government was framing all Muslims as potential terrorists and was asked to repeal the regulation immediately. Even the officials of Al-Aqsa Mosque were against the regulation, refusing to pray inside the mosque and prayed outside. Muslims believed the protest would work because there has been no violence ever since the event that triggered the regulation.
However, the Israeli government went further. Only Muslim men over 50 or women could go inside the mosque. Anyone younger wa s deemed potentially dangerous and was seen as a threat that could incite riots among the community. There were over 3,000 Israeli police force that were deployed in the scene, making sure that they could react immediately to the “Day of Anger”—a day that was sure to come when Palestinians break out into a mass scale protest that will overpower the regulatory forces that were stationed around Al-Aqsa mosque. This was seen as an overreaction, and a discriminatory action around the globe, inciting international outcry against Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s decisions. It led to additional ten activists being arrested and being locked down in prison in a rush without a proper trial.
▲ Al-Aqsa Mosque. PROVIDED BY SHUTTERSTOCK
Police Brutality to Fatality
The situation became even more heated between the Palestinians and the Israeli government when the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas ceased to make any contact with the Israeli administration unless there was the repeal of regulations concerning the Al-Aqsa mosque. "I declare the suspension of all contacts with the Israeli side on all levels until it cancels its measures at Al-Aqsa Mosque and preserves the status quo," Abbas has said. The public display of hostility and enmity sparked rage and discontent among Palestinians which led to protests in the form of prayers outside the mosque, leading to congested traffic and restriction of other citizens’ activities. The Jewish police immediately began action against the protestors, utilizing tear gas and rubber bullets.
Continued clashes quickly made the situation escalate even further, with protestors hardly resorting to violence but the police force overreacting with the usage of steel bullets and other forms of live ammunition. Multiple death reports of protestors began flooding across the nation, especially in East Jerusalem and the West Bank. This resulted in not only the international community in general but the United Nations (UN) officially condemning the actions of Israel.
The Subtle Compromise
Israeli government is attempting to make amends by installing security cameras instead of metal detectors. However, this action led to even more outcry among the Palestinian public, assuming that the Israeli administration was only trying to look as if they were taking care of the situation. Numerous political critics only saw this attempt by the Israeli administration as a subtle way of conceding to the public while never letting up the actual control over the holy site.
The Israeli government, despite all the negative criticism, maintained their position firmly, publicly and officially vowing to install advanced security cameras instead of the metal detectors. The Palestinian government began to take diplomatic countermeasures, with their envoys in the UN strongly urging the council to stop the “reckless” actions of the Israeli government. The Palestinian populace also heightened their demands, emphasizing that they would accept nothing that was added to the mosque ever since the July 14 manslaughter of the three shooters.
The Resolution of Peace
Constant pressure from the international community and the Palestinian protestors finally made the Israeli government give up on their current stance, accepting the options proposed by the Palestinian faction. On July 27, the Waqf, which is the religious official that holds the symbolic authority over the Al-Aqsa compound, stated complete disposal of all the regulatory measures that were placed around the mosque; Muslims of all age and religious branches are now free to pray at the mosque again. Ahmad Buderi, a Jerusalem affairs commentator commented "The Palestinians joined together and forgot about their political and social differences, and that's how we won."
All of the protests that were held in this event were of non-violent nature. There were casualties of the Palestinians but no reports of the Jewish police after the initial shooting have been reported. The Palestinian and Israeli conflict has always been colored by the bloodshed from both sides. However, the current situation possibly illustrates that the administration and populace of the Palestinian factions might have found new ways to resolve conflicts.