Cii News and Agencies | 10 October 2014/15 Dhul Hijjah 1435
24 years ago to the date, Israeli Zionists had committed a shameful massacre on the mosque’s sanctified grounds, killing at least 17 Palestinians and injuring over 900.
There was a steady intensification of incitement. In the days leading up to October 8, 1990, the so-called “Third Temple” group called on all Jews to join in a march to Masjidul Aqsa to end “the Arab-Islamic occupation of the temple” to facilitate Jews renewing “their profound ties to the sacred area.”
Calls were made to Palestinians to come and protect Al-Aqsa. When the fateful day dawned, some 200 000 fanatic Zionist Jews marched to the First Qiblah. The Israeli army assisted the fanatics and eased their mission by placing military checkpoints along the entrances to the city, so as to prevent the Palestinians from getting in and protecting the Masjid. Nonetheless, thousands of Palestinians had already gathered inside Al-Aqsa since the night before. It was when the Palestinians tried preventing the fanatic group from placing the “foundation stone” for their so-called temple, that the massacre began. IOF soldiers and the fanatic settlers starting shooting randomly at the unarmed Palestinians, not distinguishing between young and old, men and women, and using machine guns and gas bombs. Israeli helicopters participated in the massacre from the air. The massacre lasted 35 minutes, from 10:00 to 10:35, in which at least 17 Palestinians (some sources mention 18, others 23) were killed and some 900 injured, most of the wounds being in the head and in the heart. And as if that wasn’t enough, the IOF then started beaten the people with their clubs and rifles.
“Blood was flowing everywhere, all over the wide steps, and had stained the white tile the length of the broad courtyard, as well as the doors of both mosques. The walls of the two mosques had long, crimson lines etched onto hem by bleeding hands, and blood had stained the white uniforms of the woman first-aid workers. Everyone – the wounded and the more fortunate, first-aid workers, journalists, and Israeli soldiers – all of them looked as though they were swimming in blood,” recounts one eyewitness account.
It was one of the deepest wounds sustained by Masjidul Aqsa and one that was keenly felt by its Palestinian defenders, who had been involuntary eyewitnesses to a litany of Israeli desecrations since 1967.
Little did the Palestinians of Al Quds imagine then, that those painful wounds would be plied open on that exact date, some two and a half decades later.
What happened on Wednesday
Prior to October 8, 2014, just as in 1990, Israeli forces began restricting access to the Masjid al Aqsa, only allowing Palestinian worshipers aged 60 and up to enter. Elderly men and women had to leave their identity cards with the police officers at the entrances of the compound.
The IDF was tightening the noose on Palestinians and removing any opposition that may lie in wait for right-wing Israelis when they planned to desecrate the Masjid on the occasion of the Jewish holiday of Sukkot, or the Feast of the Tabernacles, on Wednesday.
Many Palestinians however – in a testimony to their proverbial vigilance, had already holed themselves up in the Masjid from the night before.
When the morning of Wednesday arrived, their worst fears became realized. Israeli forces allowed no worshipers entry for Fajr Salaah. Hundreds of Palestinians who had gathered outside the gates of the Masjid seeking entry were violently dispersed.
According to Ma’an, as the few worshipers who had managed to secure entry to the compound threw stones, soldiers fired tear gas, stun grenades, and rubber bullets, injuring dozens of Palestinians.
Witnesses said that eventually Israeli forces succeeded in forcefully removing Palestinians from the compound, besides those who had taken refuge in the mosque itself, thereby streamlining access for “herds of (Zionist)extremists” to storm the Masjid and move through it freely.
Some stun grenades were fired into the Al-Aqsa Mosque itself, causing a fire to break out, and fire fighters were not immediately allowed access to the area.
The doors of the mosque were also locked with chains, trapping the few remaining defenders of the Masjid inside.
Speaking to Cii Radio, Sheikh Samer Siyaam, a resident of the Old City of Al Quds said the Zionist aggression had resulted in much fire damage to the carpets of Masjid al Aqsa. He said the damage was concentrated at a door of the mosque west of the main entrance and close to the Marwani Musallah. He said centuries old candles at the Masjid, which dated from the Ottoman era were also destroyed.
Siyaam added that such a volume of gas bombs were unleashed on Masjidul Aqsa on Wednesday, that it would be sufficient to engulf the entire Old City of Al Quds.
He explained that the current status quo was the result of a steady Zionist escalation at the Holy Site coupled with the general ambivalence of the Muslim World.
“The opening of the gates of Masjidul Aqsa to Muslims today is totally erratic. The Israeli police opens and closes it entirely at their own whims and fancies.”
While many Jewish leaders had forbade their followers from entering Masjidul Aqsa in former years for fear they would profane the inner sanctum of the Second Temple they believe was once located at the site, Siyaam said that understanding had been altered drastically in the last decade.
“From 2004, Jews have been visiting the sanctuary very regularly. In 2010, concessions were made to even allow women to visit.”
“This year it has just become carte blanche for the settlers. They enter almost daily, shoot pictures and videos there, and have even consumed wine at the Masjid”.
“This is the worst situation since 1967,” lamented Siyaam. “No one talks, no one hears, no one says anything against the Jews, no one is their to stop the Zionists. This day we are alone – just a few young people from the Old City of al Quds. There are hundreds of young people now in prison simply because of their love for Al Aqsa. Dozens have been served with banning orders ranging from3 months to 6 months or more for their defense of the Masjid. No one says anything, be it Jordan, Saudi Arabia or Turkey. All the people are just looking on.”
He said the endgame for the Zionists was imposing on the Muslims through force an division of Masjidul Aqsa just as has been implemented at the Ibrahimi Masjid in Hebron.
“They are trying to get us to accept that, as Muslims, we can enter the Masjid to pray Fajr and Duha,but then must leave it to the Jews from 7.30am-11.30am for them to have it exclusively to ‘pray’. This is the plan. It is Masjid al Khalil all over. But this time they would like to achieve this division without the walls.”
New Gate for Jews
An ominous curtain raiser for this plan is the recent Israeli announcement that the ministry of tourism was working on a plan to allow Jews to enter Masjidul Aqsa through the Cotton Merchants Gate(Qattanin), in addition to the Moroccan Gate(Maghareba) which is already used as an entrance for non-Muslims.
That announcement was greeted this week with harsh backlash from Palestinians, including from the nation’s highest political representatives.
Taleb Abu Arar, a Palestinian member of the Israeli Knesset, also said in a statement that opening an additional gate for Jews to enter the Al-Aqsa compound was the equivalent of opening a “gate to war.”
PLO Executive Committee Member Hanan Ashrawi also weighed in, saying: “Israel is creating a new reality at the expense of Palestinians, their religious rights, sites, and historical identity.”
“They are violating the sanctity of religious sites without consequences, which completely terminates possibilities for peace and will ultimately drag the whole region into disastrous clashes,” Ashrawi said in a statement.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmud Abbas also weighed in saying that Israel’s attempts to open a second gate for Jews to enter the compound, was a provocation about which Palestinians “could not remain silent.”
“Palestinians will not remain silent,” Abbas said. “Clashes happen every day, and Palestinians get wounded and killed in order to resist Israeli violations of the al-Aqsa and Ibrahimi mosques.”
War on Palestinian Women
According to Siyaam, what has emerged as a key element in Israel tightening its siege on al Aqsa is its intensification of punitive measures against Muslim female residents of al Quds. Females have been found to be front-line defenders of the Masjid against repeated Zionist desecration and hence, are perceived to be a thorn in the designs of the Israelis. The last few months have seen many occasions where Muslim women as well as young girls who participate in the many study circles across the Al Aqsa compound, aimed at enlivening the Masjid and keeping it protected from Zionist threats, have been barred from entering or have had their identity cards confiscated.
The villification took an ugly turn this week, when Abeer Zayyad, a Palestinian academic and tour guide, who is a regular correspondent on Cii Radio, was violently assaulted and humiliated by Israeli police. Zayyad, who was among the hundreds of Palestinians that were barred entry to the Masjid on Wednesday, had her Hijab violently removed by Israeli policemen before being frogmarched from the mosque, through the streets of the Old City of Al Quds to a nearby police station where she was detained for a few hours.
“They beat me, removed my scarf and jailed me,” a shaken Zayyad told Cii Radio via telephone. “You can see all the videos online of what the Israelis are doing to Jerusalem women, how they beat them in humiliating ways. I was marched in this way for 1km as they grabbed by bare hair in front of all the people”.
“You must imagine what Palestinian women are facing just to be near Masjid al Aqsa,” she added. “It is getting harder and harder”.
Despite the latest Israeli escalations which have made it even more unbearable for Palestinian to worship at the mosque in peace, Sheikh Siyaam said he was still hopeful.
“The day of Tahreer(Freedom) is near,” he told Sabahul Khair. ” Zionist society is finished. It is just being propped up by few Arabs in Dubai, Saudi Arabi and Egypt. We say Wallahi, maybe in the next year all Muslims will be able to pray freely inside Masjid al Aqsa. Its true. It is not a dream. It is very close. Maybe next year Eid al Aqda, all Muslims of the world will be able to pray in Masjid al Aqsa.”
He said the continued assaults had just spiked the love of Muslims for Masjid al Aqsa and increased their determination.
“The Muslims of Al Quds will fight to last pint of blood to defend al Aqsa,” he said.
He also urged Muslims from South Africa and the West to continue visiting Al Aqsa abundantly.
“More and more who can come, please come. Don’t be afraid about what they do. Come to our Masjid”.
A battered Zayyad was however much more circumspect.
“These are the final steps Israelis are taking hopeful of getting al Aqsa for temselves. If Muslims in the whole world don’t do anything to protect al Aqsa Mosque and Jerusalem women from occupation, they will lose al Aqsa mosque. And God will ask every Muslim about what had happened“.