Israeli forces attack al-Aqsa mosque, protect settlers rampaging through Palestinian town

Israeli forces attacked Palestinian protesters Tuesday in the occupied West Bank after thousands of Israeli settlers marched through the Palestinian town of Burqa. The far right march, an obviously intentional provocation, was protected by the Israeli military. According to the Palestinian Red Cresent, over 40 people sustained injuries after Israeli forces fired rubber bullets and tear gas at Palestinians, and exit-entry points from Burqa were closed off.

These protests began after thousands of Israeli settlers arrived in buses at the former illegal settlement of Homesh, which was evacuated in 2005. Right-wing members of the Israeli parliament were also present. 

Homesh was the site of days-long clashes in December after Israeli settlers were illegally trespassing, in clear violation of their own law, and were fired upon by Palestinians in the area. Surrounding Israeli settlers then began a campaign of non-stop attacks with the protection of the Israeli army.

These attacks arose in the brutal aftermath of a round of deadly raids on the Al-Aqsa mosque, one of the holiest sites in Islam and a national symbol of the Palestinian people. Israeli forces indiscriminately attacked worshippers gathered for dawn Ramadan prayers and wounded 150 people. The Israeli attacks were sparked after Palestinian worshippers barricaded Al-Aqsa’s prayer hall in anticipation of these attacks, which are a frequent occurrence, and fired harmless firecrackers in the direction of Israeli forces.

A statement released by the Palestinian Center for Human Rights reported that Israeli forces arrested at least 400 worshippers. Several videos captured the brutal attack in a closed space after all exit routes out of the prayer hall had been blocked, preventing any access to paramedics, other healthcare workers and media personnel. PCHR noted that Israeli forces included snipers stationed at the roof of the Al-Aqsa who shattered windows into the prayer hall with live fire, rubber-coated bullets and tear gas.

Israel is carrying out these attacks as a deliberate escalation in its long-standing campaign to drive the Palestinian people from their land. Similar attacks on al-Aqsa were also carried out last year during Ramadan before turning into an 11-day bombing campaign over Gaza, killing over 200 civilians. 

And in the days prior to last week’s attack on al-Aqsa, Israeli troops stepped up deadly raids aimed at capturing Palestinians they accuse of taking part in armed resistance. The extreme violence employed in these raids left 11 Palestinians dead – another intentional escalation.

Palestinians living under brutal Israeli apartheid have every right to defend themselves against state-sanctioned violence that affects all aspects of their daily lives and which has been ongoing since 1948. It is as clear as ever: Israel is the aggressor.

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