Yesterday, Sunday, 26 April, thousands of Palestinians rejoiced at Damascus Gate, Occupied Jerusalem, following the Israeli soldiers backdown and removal of the iron barriers set in the area since the start of the holy month of Ramadan. This victory comes after 13 days of protesting the Israeli attempts to restrict Palestinian access to and presence in the Damascus Gate, the main gate leading to the old city of Jerusalem and Al-Aqsa compound.
After removing the barricades, Palestinians raised the Palestinian flag at Damascus Gate, an act that is prohibited and punishable by the Israeli occupation authorities. The Israeli soldiers responded to this act by using violence and by confiscating the flags. Yet, Palestinians refused to let the Israeli occupation to ruin their moment of rejoice and victory and continued the celebrations despite Israeli brutality.
On Saturday, 25 April, one day before achieving this victory, Palestinians witnessed another night of violence and brutality committed by both armed Israeli soldiers and fanatic settlers. Tens of Palestinian worshippers and peaceful protesters were arrested at Damascus Gate.
Many others were violently beaten and humiliated by Israeli soldiers and settlers. Since the beginning of the holy of month of Ramadan, the Israeli occupation authorities have been restricting the access of Palestinians to the Damascus Gate as an attempt to increase Israeli control over a strategic location like Damascus Gate.
‘Death to Arabs’: Israeli slogan to ethnically cleanse Jerusalem
On Last Thursday, 22nd April, Palestinian protests increased, and by implication, Israeli violence to suppress these protests. On that date, hundreds of fanatic Israeli settlers took to the streets chanting ‘death to Arabs.’ They also called for ‘burning their [Palestinians’] villages’ as well as for ethnically cleansing them from Jerusalem. The anti-Palestinian protesters were also trying to reach Damascus Gate, which would also allow them to storm Al-Aqsa compound.
Palestinians responded to the bigotry and violence of settlers under the protection of armed Israeli soldiers by rallying in the streets and trying to prevent the settlers from accessing Damascus Gate.
The Israeli occupation forces reacted to this by injuring at least 32 Palestinians and arresting many others.
The aggression used against the Palestinian protestors, according to Zakariya Odeh, the coordinator of the Civic Coalition for Palestinian rights in Jerusalem, “was a failed attempt to empty Damascus Gate area from Palestinian protestors and allow settlers to enter the area.” He added, “members of Lehava, the far-right settler organization that led the settlers’ protest at that night was backing Israeli soldiers to force Palestinians out of the area.”
When the Palestinian counter protest was dispersed and the number of Palestinians at Damascus Gate decreased, the fanatic settlers tried again to storm the area. However, Palestinians succeeded in preventing them. In response to that, the settlers violently attacked Palestinians in the area. The violent attacks of settlers extended to Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood.
Commenting on the victory and the Israeli escalated violence against Palestinians in Jerusalem since the start of Ramadan, Jamal Juma’, the coordinator of Stop the Wall Campaign stated:
“Today, Palestinians show that they are able to stay steadfast and strong in the face of Israeli attempts to obliterate their existence. It also asserts the connectedness of Palestinians to their city and Al-Aqsa Mosque, which the Israeli occupation is unable to break.
After disrupting Israeli attempts to set up electronic gates at the entrances leading to Al-Aqsa Mosque in 2017, this is the second victory of Jerusalemite Palestinians in a few years while trying to defend their existence, their right to and sovereignty over the Old City of Jerusalem.“
The Israeli occupation authorities have chosen the holy month of Ramadan to tighten their control over the Old City of Jerusalem, including Al-Aqsa compound as this is a month where Palestinians are more connected to Al-Aqsa compound.
During Ramadan Palestinian residents of Jerusalem spend more time in that holy site together, where its Muslim identity is emphasized more.
The Israeli occupation has been seeking to prevent Palestinian gatherings in the area as part of the attempt to erase its Muslim identity gradually. Yet, it failed and backed down in front of the determination of Palestinians to protect their city and religious sites.
Prior to that, on 14 April, the Israeli occupation forces stormed the Al-Aqsa Compound and removed the doors of the minarets; then, they cut the wires of the minaret’s loudspeakers while Palestinian Muslim worshippers were performing tarawih evening prayers.
Three days later, the Israeli army expelled Palestinians who were planning to spend the night performing prayers at Al-Aqsa Mosque.
Palestinians have called for daily protests in Jerusalem against Israeli attempted control over Damascus Gate and Al-Aqsa compound as part of the Jerusalem uprising. Since its start at the beginning of Ramadan, the Israeli occupation forces arrested more than 100 Palestinians and injured over 700 in Jerusalem.
The escalated Israeli aggression in Jerusalem coincides with the looming ethnic cleansing of Palestinians from the neighborhoods of Sheikh Jarrah and Silwan. Several weeks before the eruption of the Jerusalem uprising, Palestinian inhabitants of Jerusalem have been protesting weekly in these two neighborhoods against the imminent expulsion of hundreds of Palestinians from their homes.
The Israeli violence in Jerusalem has led to more protests in several areas in the West Bank and the Gaza strip. Many of the demonstrations that took place at Israeli military checkpoints in the Occupied West Bank were met with Israeli violence.
What adds insult to injury of Palestinians in the West Bank and increases the momentum of their protests is the Israeli refusal to allow them access to Al-Aqsa Mosque in Ramadan.
This is the second year in a row that the Israeli occupation denies Palestinian Muslims who live outside Jerusalem their right to perform prayers at Al-Aqsa Mosque. Praying in Al-Aqsa Mosque has a religious importance for Muslims because they believe their prayers are more valued in that holy site, a belief that the Israeli occupation totally disrespects. Nor does the Israeli occupation respects the right of Palestinian Christians from outside Jerusalem to access the Church of the Holy Sepulcher during Easter.