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Timeline of violence at Al-Aqsa Mosque reveals a horrifying pattern

In the recent cycle of violence between Palestinians and Israelis, at least 152 Palestinians were injured in Jerusalem’s Al Aqsa on Friday, as Israeli forces blocked some Palestinian gatherings at the beginning of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

Both sides have witnessed an uptick in violence over the past month, with Israeli forces stepping up arrests and raids in the occupied West Bank and Palestinians attacking Israeli cities.

Jerusalem has been the scene of violent confrontations between Palestinians and Jews for 100 years. 

Last year, violent raids on the compound were one trigger of an 11-day bombardment of Gaza, which resulted in the deaths of at least 232 Palestinians, including 65 children, and 12 Israelis, including two children.

TRT World looks at why the Al Aqsa Mosque compound is a flashpoint for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The epicentre of the Middle East conflict

The mosque is home to the golden Dome of the Rock, which Muslims refer to as the Noble Sanctuary, while Jews refer to it as the Temple Mount.

As part of an understanding between neighbouring Jordan and Israel, Jordan serves as the site’s custodian, which is operated by an Islamic endowment known as the Waqf. 

Only Muslims can pray inside, and only Jews at the Western Wall. Israeli authorities are in charge of security at the mosque. 

Israeli incursions

For years Israelis have ignored this arrangement agreed upon in 1967 by Israel, Jordan and Muslim religious authorities and have been visiting the compound in greater numbers and holding prayers in defiance. 

The Palestinians view the visits, escorted by police, as a provocation that often incites serious violence. Some Israelis say the site should be open to all worshippers.

On Monday, Jordan’s King Abdullah said that Israel’s “unilateral” moves at Jerusalem’s Al Aqsa mosque undermined the prospects for peace in the region.

Speaking with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, the monarch said that Israel’s “provocative acts” in the mosque compound violated “the legal and historic status quo” of the Muslim holy shrines.

King Abdullah’s Hashemite monarchy has been the custodian of the sites since 1924, paying for their maintenance and restoration.

When did the Israeli incursions start?

The incursions began in 1967, soon after Jordan started to serve as the site’s custodian. The same year, General Mordechai Gur, Israel’s deputy defence minister, captured Jerusalem’s Temple Mount for Israel. 

On the third day of the 1967 war, Gur raised the Israeli flag from the Dome of the Rock, burned copies of the Quran and prohibited worshippers from praying in the mosque. 

In 2000, Israeli security forces killed and wounded dozens of worshippers in Al Aqsa Mosque after Ariel Sharon, an Israeli general who served as the 11th Prime Minister of Israel from March 2001 until April 2006, stormed Al Aqsa Mosque accompanied by a heavy security presence. 

This sparked the second Intifada (uprising), a five-year-long uprising that killed thousands of Palestinians.

In the aftermath of the second Intifada, Israel revoked the Waqf’s exclusive authority to regulate the access of Muslim worshippers and non-Muslim visitors.

Since then, Israeli incursions began daily in the form of tours protected by police.

In 2017, Palestinians held a “Day of Rage” outside the mosque when they were prevented from praying inside for the second time. 

At least four people were killed in the confrontations. The same year, Israel removed metal detectors from the mosque’s gates after outrage against the installations from Muslims across the world. However, CCTV cameras remain in the compound, violating the status quo.

What do the Palestinians fear?

Palestinians say Israeli incursions are meant to divide the mosque between Muslims and Jews, similar to the division of the Ibrahimi Mosque in Hebron in the 1990s.

To end Israeli incursions, Palestinians regularly organised and conducted Ribat, a mosque sit-in for hours and days to prevent Israelis from entering it. 

On April 17, more than 700 Israeli settlers forced their way into the complex to celebrate the week-long Jewish Passover holiday. On April 18, 561 settlers stormed the flashpoint site under heavy police protection, the Department of Islamic Endowments in Jerusalem said.  

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