Yet another martyr, Talat Ramia, 23 years old, killed by the Israeli military with live rounds on his chest last Friday. The protest during which he was killed happened in ar Ram, a suburb of Jerusalem, in reaction to Israel’s threats against the al Aqsa mosque.The latest escalation came as a result of inflammatory statements from Israeli hard-liners threatening to destroy the mosque and build in its place a Jewish Temple.Ibrahim, an eyewitness to the events in Al Aqsa on Friday explains how the events unfolded:
“I go every day to the al Aqsa mosque soo I have been able to follow not only the provocations from the Israeli side but also the reaction from Palestinian Jerusalemites.
“Talk that Israeli groups were planning to invade the Al Aqsa mosque area started a couple of weeks ago. A Likud member, Moshe Feiglin, called for the “purification” of the al-Aqsa sanctuary from the “enemies of Israel”. This amounts to nothing more than a call for accelerated ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian people from their city. This created worries and heightened tensions among the people. In addition to this, religious fanatics distributed leaflets reiterating the call to “purify” Jerusalem. Further, every morning Israelis hold a tour in the mosque area. These visits have as well become more and more an instrument of provocation and incitement. Last week, a video appeared on youtube (https://youtu.be/RCOInI4Z_Ts) that showed one of the participants of such a tour calling for Israeli takeover of the area.
“On Friday February 17, the imam of Al Aqsa urged worshippers to come to al Aqsa on the following Sunday to defend the mosque from vocal threats by Israeli groups that had announced their plans to invade the area. That Sunday many people went to the mosque early in the morning for the Fajr prayers [around 5 am] and stayed there to protect the mosque with their presence.
“That Sunday, the first of the recent invasions happened. People defended the area with a determination that was reinforced by a feeling of solidarity in a common struggle for rights with Khadr Adnan, who was at that stage in the most dramatic period of his 65-day hunger strike. Clashes broke out, Israeli military used teargas and created lots of damage in the Al Aqsa compound. 13 Palestinians were arrested by Israeli occupation forces.
“The next Friday I went to Al Aqsa thinking it would be closed. The Israeli military usually closes access to the Al Aqsa compound in times of tensions and then all the thousands of people have to pray in the narrow alleyways of the Old City.To my surprise Al Aqsa was open.
“After the prayers I met with my friends right in front of the door of Aqsa, our usual meeting place The youth gathered in the open space of the Al Aqsa compound and started chanting slogans to reiterate their right to be there, their right to Jerusalem, dignity and freedom. They jointly marched towards the Israeli controlled door at al Buraq. At this stage the Israeli military invaded in huge numbers the area using brutal force It was then that I realized that the Israelis were expecting this confrontation and using the clashes as excuse for further crackdown on people’s rights
“I first went to the clinic that has been built next to the mosque to see if I could help. However, it was already crowded with injured and paramedics. I rushed to the main mosque after being chased by hundreds of Israeli soldiers throwing sound bombs. The mosque at that point got completely surrounded by the Israeli occupation forces. The many people inside, including elderly and small children were besieged while the Israeli military threw tear gas into the mosque. With all doors shut the effect of the tear gas was overpowering. Elderly were choking, a small kid fainted just next to me and I myself felt like throwing up.
“We were stuck like this for two hours while outside people continued to resist the Israeli military invading the entire al Aqsa compound until up to the Dome of the Rock. When the occupation forces finally withdrew many were injured, five were arrested and all of us leaving the area were filmed so that Israeli police can conduct its usual early morning raids based simply on evidence of our presence in the mosque.
“The general feeling is that people are still outraged about all what is happening and determined to continue to resist it. An Israeli show of force will definitely not stop anyone. People are perfectly aware that it is not only about the Al Aqsa mosque. It is about all of Jerusalem and by extension about Palestine. Jerusalem is at the core and reflects all of the issues of Israeli occupation and apartheid.
“Furthermore, what is happening in the al Aqsa compound has nothing to do with religious extremists fighting each other. On one side there are fully armed Israeli forces, which cannot even be defined as extreme right-wing. Likud is in parliament and in government and we need to admit that the Israeli groups that are at the forefront of the calls for the “purification” of Jerusalem and the al Aqsa compound from Palestinians express the feelings of Israeli mainstream. On the other side there are common people standing up to their right to remain in Jerusalem. The Old city is a symbol for Christian, Muslims and Jews. More than that, the al Aqsa compound is recognized by the United Nations as a UNESCO world heritage site. Israeli threats to destroy it are an affront to humanity.
“We cannot look at the issue of the al Aqsa compound as isolated from the rest of the Palestinian struggle. People are there to defend their cultural and national heritage and their rights, their right to worship, their right to residency, their right to freedom of movement, their right to a dignified life. The banner of the protests is the banner of Jerusalem, the banner of the Palestinian struggle for justice, freedom and equality.”