Fearing mass settler intrusion in Jerusalem, Palestine groups say ‘LOCK’ mosques for Eid al-Adha
Following a controversial Israeli decision in June to allow Jewish settlers to enter the Al-Aqsa complex during the last 10 days of the Muslim holiday of Ramadan, settler visits have become increasingly frequent, stoking outrage among many Palestinians and even brief clashes with police near the mosque.
In a statement issued on Friday, Muslim religious leaders in Jerusalem asked worshipers across Palestine to gather at Al-Aqsa to pray for the Eid al-Adha festival, which begins on Sunday, and “to disrupt the intrusion of settlers” into the mosque. They also called on the city’s imams to make the same appeal in their Friday sermons, and asked them to keep their mosques “locked” for the holiday.
“Our holiday is a bond,” the leaders said in the statement. “The people of Jerusalem and its treasures will stand … in front of the ambitions of the herds of settlers who wish to impose any spatial or temporal division on the Al-Aqsa Mosque.”
Since last month, over 2,200 Israeli settlers have visited the holy site –which holds religious significance to Muslims, Jews and Christians alike– according to the Wadi Hilweh Information Center, a Palestinian NGO. Each visit has been accompanied by a police or military escort.
Hundreds of settlers arrived at the Al-Aqsa compound on Thursday, a Palestinian official told the Anadolu news agency, prompting fears that the visits will continue through the upcoming holiday and could potentially lead to violence.
A spokesperson for Hamas, the Palestinain Islamist group that governs the Gaza Strip, said in a statement on Friday that the settler intrusions “may explode the situation in Jerusalem and the Palestinian territories”, and called on the international community to “stop this madness before things get out of control.”
The Israeli government considers Hamas a terrorist organization, and the group remains on the US terrorism blacklist.
Israel seized East Jerusalem during the Six Day War in 1967 and continues to occupy the city, a main point of contention in the decades-long Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In May of 2018, Washington moved its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and recognized the city as the “eternal” and “undivided capital of the Jewish people,” a move harshly denounced by Palestinian leadership.
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