On Sunday, 19 February, a group of Israeli settlers broke into al-Aqsa mosque, under the protection of Israeli police. This led to clashes between Palestinians and Israeli occupying forces in the area in front of the mosque as well as in other parts of the Old City. By the end of the day, Al-Haq had recorded that Israeli forces had arrested approximately 15 Palestinians. Among the detainees were three paramedics, a 62-year-old man and a 17-year-old boy.
Earlier in the day, Israeli soldiers had prohibited entry to al-Aqsa mosque to Palestinians under the age of 45. Even those meeting the age requirement were ordered to hand their ID cards to soldiers before they could enter the mosque. They then had to collect them later from al-Qishla police station at al-Khalil gate (also known as Jaffa gate).
Last week there were a number of confrontations between Jerusalemites and Israeli forces in the neighbourhoods of Bab Hutta, Ras al-‘Amoud, al-Eisawiyya and Silwan. These clashes were the result of tension brewed by the most recent calls from prominent Israeli figures, including Likud Party leader, Moshe Feigin, to invade and take over al-Aqsa Mosque.
The mosque, situated at the heart of the Old City of Jerusalem, is the third holiest place in Islam. The site is also significant for Jews who believe that the southern building, known as al-Jame’ al-Qibli, is built on the ruins of the Temple Mount, the holiest site in Judaism.
Fakhri Khalil Abu Diyab
At around 7:30 am, Fakhri Khalil Abu Diyab, a resident of Silwan, was on his way to al-Aqsa mosque for his morning prayers. When Fakhri reached al-Silsila gate (the western entrance to al-Aqsa courtyard), he was stopped by Israeli soldiers at a checkpoint and was asked for his ID card. One of the soldiers took the ID card and gave Fakhri a notice of receipt.
After Fakhri had entered the courtyard, he noticed that dozens of soldiers were gathered near al-Magharba’s gate, from where the settlers usually enter. An hour later, the soldiers opened the gate and let in a group of 30 settlers, identifiable by their religious clothes. The Palestinians worshipers present started chanting, “God is great”.
The Israeli police confronted the worshipers and then called for the special units to disperse them. The Palestinians ran into the mosque and started throwing chairs and tables towards the soldiers, before succeeding in closing the doors.
When the soldiers left, Fakhri decided to walk home. He returned to al-Silsila gate to retrieve his ID card, but the soldier there ordered him to collect it from another gate. Fakhri walked to the other gate but could not find his ID card. He returned once more to al-Silsila gate and argued with one of the soldiers who eventually told him to look for his ID card at al-Qishla police station.
Fakhri went to the police station to collect his ID card. He was forced to wait a long time before he was allowed to talk to one of the Israeli police officers. They argued for a short time before the police officer tore Fakhri’s ID card in half and gave it back to him. Fakhri left the police station at 2.30 pm. If Fakhri lost his ID card, it would have been difficult for him to replace it, and to travel within and outside Jerusalem. (Al-Haq Affidavit. No. 7056/2012)