New Clashes at Al-Aqsa; Abbas Warns Int’l Leaders of Danger

Israeli forces raided the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound for the second straight day on Monday, September 28, and deployed heavily in the courtyard, leading to clashes with Palestinian worshipers. The Palestinian Red Crescent reported 22 people wounded, with three hospitalized after being hit by rubber bullets, including one person struck in the face while inside the mosque.

According to Israeli police, young Palestinian protesters had slept overnight at the mosque and also threw petrol bombs at security forces during the clashes, which caused a small fire at the entrance to the building. Police said negotiations to have the youths leave had failed, leaving them no choice but to carry out the raid to keep them from disrupting visits to the site ahead of the Jewish holiday of Sukkot. Visits by Jews were stopped on Sunday and age restrictions on Muslim men entering the compound lifted for the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha, but a ban on under-50s was re-imposed as Sukkot started on Monday. Palestinians have been alarmed by an increase in visits by Jews and fear rules governing the compound will be changed. Recent weeks have seen a series of Jewish holidays during which there has been an spike in visits by Jews that have sparked repeated clashes.The same situation is feared over Sukkot.

Israeli police escort a group of Jewish visitors to the Al-Aqsa mosque compound in Jerusalem’s Old City, on September 28, 2015.

Israeli police escort a group of Jewish visitors to the Al-Aqsa mosque compound in Jerusalem’s Old City, on September 28, 2015. (Photo: AFP/Thomas Coex)

Clashes broke out on Sunday after Israeli forces raided the compound.Young masked Palestinians “threw stones and fireworks at police and border police forces”, who responded with “riot dispersal means,” Israeli police said of Sunday’s clashes. Calm returned to the compound later on Sunday morning and most police were withdrawn, an AFP journalist reported. Officials from the Palestinian Authority Ministry of Endowment told the Ma’an News Agency that dozens of Israeli forces raided the holy site and fired stun grenades and rubber-coated steel bullets “haphazardly” in the area.

Sources with the Jordanian-run organization that administers the site, the Waqf, told AFP that police stun grenades ignited four fires inside the building that were brought under control. Around 15 Israeli snipers deployed on the roof of the southern mosque, while Israeli forces in riot gear were stationed in the main courtyards. Witnesses said Israeli forces closed the doors of the southern mosque with chains and forcibly evacuated worshipers from the area through the Hatta Gate. Locals also said that Israeli soldiers used hammer drills and oxy fuel wielding tools to remove several windows from the mosque. Only the Hatta, Chain, and Council Gates were open for Palestinians to access the holy site, with worshipers performing dawn prayers outside of the compound early Monday.

In New York, President Mahmoud Abbas warned on Sunday international leaders at the UN General Assembly of the potential danger of ongoing events at the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in occupied East Jerusalem, according to reports by the Ma’an News Agencey. Abbas told Palestine TV that he had told world leaders in a series of meetings at the sidelines of the UN session in New York that “the whole world” should be aware of what is happening at the mosque compound.  Abbas told leaders that Israel is seeking to change the nature of the conflict from a political to religious one. The president said that he asked the leaders to exert pressure on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to implement signed agreements between Israel and Palestine.

.Abbas reportedly met with a number of senior Arab and European officials. He also met with US President Barack Obama and US Secretary of State John Kerry over the weekend. He is currently scheduled to deliver a speech before the General Assembly on Wednesday, where he is expected to urge the international community to “commit to its responsibilities” concerning Palestine. Earlier this month, the president told London-based Al-Quds al-Arabi that he planned to “drop a bombshell” during his speech. In July, sources told Ma’an that he would use the UN session to discuss his own future in Palestinian politics, amid speculation that he plans to resign as Palestinian president.