Israeli attacks on Al Aqsa reinforce the dehumanisation of Palestinians living under occupation

Israeli Occupation Forces raid Al Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem during Ramadan
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Like clockwork, with the arrival of the Islamic month of Ramadan, Israel has escalated its violence against Palestinians. Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) stormed the Al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem on Wednesday 5 April, attacking unarmed worshippers.

It’s worth noting that Al Aqsa is amongst one of the holiest sites in Islam, and it holds a great deal of spiritual significance for Muslims particularly during Ramadan.

Dressed in riot gear, the attackers used teargas, stun grenades, and rubber-coated bullets. Video footage also showed them violently beating worshippers with rifles and batons.

And, the repression is still ongoing, as Al Jazeera reported attacks for the second night in a row on 6 April:

Continued repression

It’ll come as little surprise to anyone familiar with Israel’s repeated human rights violations that Israeli forces also prevented medics from treating injuries:

Rapper Lowkey shared a video of the medical centre within the Al Aqsa compound being completely destroyed and left unusable:

According to Al Jazeera, the attackers arrested around 450 worshippers. Reports suggested the detainees were zip-tied and labeled with numbers, further reinforcing their dehumanisation:

Israeli police have since released 397 detainees, but they’ve received a week-long ban on re-entering Al Aqsa. In a statement, the Palestinian Commission of Detainees Affairs said:

The conditions of arrest and detention are humiliating and inhumane, and no medical attention is being provided to the injured detainees

To anyone who assesses the occupation forces’ actions, it would be hard to deny that the humiliation is deliberate. Footage shared by the Institute for Middle East Understanding on 5 April showed IOF officers trampling over prayer mats with their shoes – a sign of blatant disrespect – and pushing worshippers mid-prayer:

Furthermore, the state in which IOF officers left the mosque also shows a clear desecration of this place of worship:

However, and unfortunately for Palestinians, this repression and humiliation is very familiar – including in the month of Ramadan.

Media misreporting

As is often the case with reporting on Israel, a number of mainstream media outlets covered the recent developments as ‘clashes’ between IOF and Palestinians. But pro-Palestine voices were quick to set the record straight:

The BBC‘s coverage in particular drew criticism:

It is especially disheartening to see, in a country where there’s constant criticism of anti-Semitism – and rightly so – that the worship of Muslims means so little.

Meanwhile, the Israeli government claimed “agitators locked themselves inside” Al Aqsa. But in fact, worshippers were only trying to observe itikaf, a practice of overnight stays within a mosque during Ramadan:

Among those who uncritically repeated Israel’s claim was the New York Times. However, Palestinian journalist Mohammed El-Kurd noted the misrepresentation and criticised the outlet as having “Zero journalistic integrity”:

Al Aqsa: repeated targeting of worshippers

Israeli forces have brutalised Palestinian worshippers in Al Aqsa during Ramadan for several years in a row. As Youmna ElSayed reported from Gaza for Al Jazeera:

There is a high sense of worry among the people here as they associate Ramadan with memories of violence.

She went on:

Israeli forces storm Al-Aqsa Mosque during Ramadan, which provokes the feelings of Palestinians in particular and Muslims in general.

In June 2019, Israeli police used rubber bullets and pepper spray on worshippers after allowing hundreds of ultra-nationalist Israeli settlers to enter the Al Aqsa compound. This was on Jerusalem Day, when Jews were banned from entering Al Aqsa due to it coinciding with the end of Ramadan.

Then, in May 2020, during Ramadan once again, IOF attacked worshippers praying close to one of Al Aqsa’s gates while the mosque was closed during the coronavirus pandemic.

In May 2021, Sheikh Jarrah residents and others had been taking part in nightly sit-in protests and vigils following evening prayers during Ramadan. These were in support of Palestinian families being forcibly displaced by Israel. To disperse the protesters, Israeli police raided Al Aqsa over several days. They attacked people with teargas, rubber bullets, shock grenades, and skunk water.

According to Al Jazeera, over two weeks of Ramadan in April 2022, Israeli attacks on Al Aqsa left around 300 Palestinians injured.

It wouldn’t be a stretch to assume that this repeated targeting of Muslim Palestinian worshippers is an intimidation tactic. It should go without saying that being able to practice their religion, as well as to engage in protest, should be a basic right of Palestinians. But this is clearly not the case in apartheid Israel. So while Israeli citizens have recently been carrying out pro-democracy protests, as author Rula Jibrael pointed out:

There cannot be a movement for an exclusive liberal democracy for Jews, and apartheid for Palestinians.


Of course, these recent attacks on Al Aqsa are only par for the course. Israeli violence against Palestinians also continues elsewhere, and particularly in Gaza:


In a statement, Friends of Al Aqsa (FOA) founder and chair Dr Ismail Patel called for sanctions against Israel:

for the apartheid state’s continued brutality against Palestinian worshippers at Al-Aqsa.

Patel added:

Words of condemnation are not enough. We need action. Israel must be held responsible for its ongoing violence, human rights abuse and violations of international law. Last night Israeli Occupation Forces once again beat worshippers with batons and rifles at the holiest site for Muslims in Jerusalem. If the attacks were carried out by another country the British government would not hesitate to impose sanctions today.

As supporters of Palestinians know all too well, however, while sanctions against Russia or Iran were enforced with urgency, this is unlikely to happen with Israel. Meanwhile, Muslim Palestinians continue to hold on to their faith in the face of military occupation, and no amount of boot prints on prayer mats will change that. Perhaps this is what frustrates the occupying forces the most.

Featured image via Twitter/IMEU

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