Israeli ‘desecration’ of Al-Aqsa chapel angers Palestinians

Special Israeli ‘desecration’ of Al-Aqsa chapel angers Palestinians
Members of the Israeli security forces walk next to settlers in the Al-Aqsa compound, in Jerusalem's Old City, Apr. 5, 2023. (Reuters)
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Updated 26 April 2023
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Israeli ‘desecration’ of Al-Aqsa chapel angers Palestinians

Israeli ‘desecration’ of Al-Aqsa chapel angers Palestinians
  • Palestinian PM Mohammed Shtayyeh said Bab Al-Rahma was an integral part of Al-Aqsa and only Muslims had the right to control its affairs
  • Omar Al-Kiswani, director of Al-Aqsa Mosque, said the intruders were trying to cut the chapel off from Al-Aqsa Mosque

RAMALLAH: Palestinians have condemned repeated Israeli attacks on the Bab Al-Rahma Chapel in Al-Aqsa Mosque, saying the site has been vandalized, while worshippers face daily threats and abuse.

Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh said Bab Al-Rahma was an integral part of Al-Aqsa and only Muslims had the right to control its affairs.

Removal of items from the chapel and its vandalization by Israel were unacceptable, he added.

Ramzi Khoury, a member of the Palestine Liberation Organization executive committee, said extremist settler groups raised Israeli flags in the courtyards of Al-Aqsa Mosque on Wednesday and performed religious rituals.

He described the Israeli actions as an “unprecedented aggression against the sanctity of Al-Aqsa, a desecration of its religious status, and a provocation to Muslims all over the world.”

Israeli forces’ repeated attacks on Bab Al-Rahma would not give Israel any sovereignty over Al-Aqsa Mosque or Jerusalem, as “it is an occupied Palestinian city with its Islamic and Christian sanctities according to the relevant international legitimacy resolutions,” he added.

Rawhi Fattouh, president of the Palestinian National Council, called on the international community to curb the “criminal madness” of the Israeli government and its National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir.

Fattouh said the raids constituted a flagrant violation of places of worship and an attempt to give a religious character to the conflict, “which would ignite the region and detonate the situation.”

Osama Al-Qawasmi, a member of the Fatah Revolutionary Council, said the “cowardly and provocative attack on Bab Al-Rahma was only part of the systematic Israeli campaign to Judaize Jerusalem.”

Nabil Abu Rudeineh, spokesman for the Palestinian presidency, said Israeli vandalism confirmed that the extremist government was looking for ways to detonate the situation.

“Destructive policies seek to destroy any regional or international effort to provide stability and prevent the deterioration of the situation,” he said.

Abu Rudeineh said that Israel was playing with fire, as the chapel was an integral part of Al-Aqsa Mosque.

On Wednesday, Israeli police stormed Bab Al-Rahma for a fourth consecutive day amid searches in the vicinity. Earlier police cut off the electricity supply and damaged installations inside the chapel.

Palestinians were able to open the Gate of Mercy chapel in February 2019, after it was closed by Israeli authorities for 16 years.

The Umayyads built Bab Al-Rahma Chapel about 1,300 years ago as a standard door between the Jerusalem Wall and the eastern Al-Aqsa Mosque.

The site fell into neglect after the Israeli occupation of Al-Aqsa in 1967. In 1992, it witnessed a remarkable recovery after the Islamic Heritage Committee launched religious and social activities there. However, Israeli authorities banned the events in 2003 and closed the chapel completely.

For the past three years, Israeli police have continued to enter the prayer hall wearing shoes. Police also have set up a monitoring point above the chapel and another nearby.

Azzam Al-Khatib, director of the Islamic Waqf Department that supervises the Al-Aqsa Mosque and is affiliated with Jordan, told Arab News that since Eid Al-Fitr Israeli police have been storming Bab Al-Rahma two or three times a day.

“They do not consider it a chapel, but rather a regular location in Al-Aqsa Mosque, and we know the greed of extremists about Al-Aqsa and Bab Al-Rahma,” Al-Khatib said.

He said Bab Al-Rahma was part of Al-Aqsa, and Israeli authorities had no right to interfere with its affairs.

Omar Al-Kiswani, director of Al-Aqsa Mosque, said that Israeli authorities had refused to allow restoration work on the chapel, which was in urgent need of internal and external repair.

Israeli police frequently harassed worshippers with threats of deportation, bag searches, and the confiscation of food items and balloons meant to be distributed among children.

They also forbid placing wooden barriers separating rows of men and women during prayers and have repeatedly confiscated shoe racks, he said.

Extremist Jews, who believe the “awaited messiah” will enter through Bab Al-Rahma at the end of time, are seeking to convert the chapel into a synagogue. However, its recent opening has dashed their hopes.

Al-Kiswani said the intruders were trying to cut the chapel off from the Al-Aqsa Mosque.

However, he said Israeli authorities are unlikely to close the chapel again given the strong Palestinian reaction in the past.


Abandoned Red Sea ship remains afloat, to be towed to Djibouti: operator

Abandoned Red Sea ship remains afloat, to be towed to Djibouti: operator
Updated 6 sec ago
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Abandoned Red Sea ship remains afloat, to be towed to Djibouti: operator

Abandoned Red Sea ship remains afloat, to be towed to Djibouti: operator
  • Rubymar, a Belize-flagged, British-registered and Lebanese-operated cargo ship, was damaged in Sunday’s Houthi missile strike
DUBAI: A cargo ship abandoned in the Gulf of Aden after an attack by Yemeni rebels remains afloat and could be towed to Djibouti this week, its operator said on Thursday.
Rubymar, a Belize-flagged, British-registered and Lebanese-operated cargo ship carrying combustible fertilizer, was damaged in Sunday’s missile strike claimed by the Iran-backed Houthi rebels.
Its crew was evacuated to Djibouti after one missile hit the side of the ship, causing water to enter the engine room and its stern to sag, said its operator, the Blue Fleet Group.
A second missile hit the vessel’s deck without causing major damage, Blue Fleet CEO Roy Khoury said.
Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthi rebels had claimed on Monday the attack on the ship, saying it was “at risk of potential sinking in the Gulf of Aden” after receiving “extensive damage.”
Khoury said the ship was still afloat and shared an image captured on Wednesday that showed its stern low in the water.
“She will be towed to Djibouti but the tugboat has not yet arrived,” Khoury said. “It should be there in two to three days.”
When asked about the possibility of it sinking, Khoury said there was “no risk for now but always a possibility.”
Ship-tracking site TankerTrackers.com confirmed that the Rubymar had not sunk but warned that the vessel was leaking fuel oil.
The attack on the Rubymar has inflicted the most significant damage yet to a commercial ship since the Houthis started firing on vessels in November — a campaign they say is in solidarity with Palestinians in Gaza during the Israel-Hamas war.
The Djibouti Ports and Free Zones Authority said the ship’s last port of call was the United Arab Emirates and it was destined for Belarus.
Its 24 crew members included 11 Syrians, six Egyptians, three Indians and four Filipinos, the authority said in a statement on Monday.
“The vessel has on board 21,999 MT (metric tons) of fertilizer IMDG class 5.1,” the authority said on X, formerly Twitter, describing it as “very dangerous.”
The Houthi attacks have prompted some shipping companies to detour around southern Africa to avoid the Red Sea, which normally carries about 12 percent of global maritime trade.
The UN Conference on Trade and Development warned late last month that the volume of commercial traffic passing through the Suez Canal had fallen more than 40 percent in the previous two months.

Casualties reported in shooting attack near Jerusalem

Casualties reported in shooting attack near Jerusalem
Updated 52 min 1 sec ago
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Casualties reported in shooting attack near Jerusalem

Casualties reported in shooting attack near Jerusalem
  • Eight people with varying degrees of injuries were evacuated from the scene by medics
  • Violence was already on the increase across the West Bank prior to the Gaza war

JERUSALEM: Three gunmen opened fire with automatic weapons on several vehicles near a Jewish settlement in the Israeli-occupied West Bank Thursday, wounding eight people in a “terror attack,” police said.
The incident occurred near Maale Adumim settlement, east of Jerusalem, police said, adding the attackers had arrived in a vehicle.
Violence was already on the increase across the West Bank prior to the Gaza war which began in October, but has escalated since to levels unseen in nearly two decades.
“The three terrorists... got out of their vehicle and started shooting from automatic weapons at vehicles that were standing in a traffic jam on the road toward Jerusalem,” police said in a statement.
“Two terrorists were neutralized on the spot. In the searches conducted at the scene, another terrorist was located who tried to escape and he was also neutralized.”
Eight people with varying degrees of injuries were evacuated from the scene by medics, the police said.

 

Thursday’s shooting comes after two people were shot dead on Friday at a bus stop in southern Israel near the town of Kiryat Malakhi.
The West Bank has seen frequent Palestinian attacks on Israelis and near-daily raids by the Israeli military that often turn deadly.
Israeli troops and settlers have killed at least 400 Palestinians in the West Bank since the Gaza war began, according to the Palestinian health ministry in Ramallah.
Israel captured the West Bank — including east Jerusalem, which it later annexed — in the Arab-Israeli war of 1967.
Around 475,000 Jewish settlers currently live in the occupied West Bank, their settlements considered illegal by the United Nations and most of the international community.
The Palestinian population of the West Bank numbers about 2.9 million.
The Palestinians claim the territory as the heartland of their future independent state, but on Wednesday Israel’s parliament overwhelmingly backed a proposal by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu opposing any unilateral recognition of a Palestinian state.
The war in Gaza erupted after Hamas militants attacked Israel on October 7, resulting in the deaths of around 1,160 people in Israel, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally based on official Israeli figures.
At least 29,313 people, mostly women and children, have been killed in Israel’s retaliatory military offensive on Gaza, according to the health ministry in the Hamas-run territory.


Turkiye calls for Gaza ceasefire, two-state solution at G20 meeting

Turkiye calls for Gaza ceasefire, two-state solution at G20 meeting
Updated 22 February 2024
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Turkiye calls for Gaza ceasefire, two-state solution at G20 meeting

Turkiye calls for Gaza ceasefire, two-state solution at G20 meeting
  • Turkiye has harshly criticized Israel for its attacks on Gaza and backed measures to have it tried for genocide at the World Court

ANKARA: Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan called on the international community to take a more active role toward an urgent ceasefire in Gaza and a two-state solution to the conflict during talks at the G20 meeting in Brazil, a Turkish diplomatic source said.
Turkiye, which has harshly criticized Israel for its attacks on Gaza and backed measures to have it tried for genocide at the World Court, has repeatedly called for a ceasefire.
Unlike its Western allies and some Gulf nations, NATO member Turkiye does not view Hamas, the Palestinian militant group which runs Gaza and on Oct. 7 carried out an attack inside Israel that prompted the Israeli campaign, as a terrorist organization.
Fidan told a G20 foreign ministers meeting in Rio de Janeiro on Wednesday that the “savagery” in Gaza must be stopped, and discussed steps to achieve an urgent ceasefire and get more aid into the enclave during talks with counterparts from the United States, Germany, and Egypt, the source said.
“Steps that can be taken to achieve a full ceasefire as soon as possible were discussed,” during talks between Fidan and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, the source said, adding Fidan also discussed “concrete steps” to stop the fighting with German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock.
“The fact that a decision on a ceasefire did not come out of the UN Security Council once again, has shown that reform is a must,” Fidan told a session at the G20 meeting, according to one of his aides, referring to a third US veto on a ceasefire call at the 15-member body.
Ankara says the UN Security Council must be reformed to be more inclusive and representative of the world.
“The stance shown by Brazilian President Lula (Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva) is admirable,” the aide cited Fidan as saying, in reference to comments by Lula in which he likened the war in Gaza to the Nazi genocide during World War Two and which caused a diplomatic spat.


Israel strikes Gaza’s Rafah as truce talks under way

Israel strikes Gaza’s Rafah as truce talks under way
Updated 22 February 2024
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Israel strikes Gaza’s Rafah as truce talks under way

Israel strikes Gaza’s Rafah as truce talks under way
  • Global powers trying to navigate a way to end the Israel-Hamas war have so far come up short
  • International concern has in recent weeks centered on Gaza’s southernmost city of Rafah

GAZA STRIP, Palestinian Territories: Israel launched air strikes Thursday on southern Gaza’s Rafah after threatening to send troops into the city, where around 1.4 million Palestinians have sought shelter from around the territory.
Global powers trying to navigate a way to end the Israel-Hamas war have so far come up short, but a US envoy was expected in Israel on Thursday to try to secure a truce deal.
International concern has spiraled over the high civilian death toll and dire humanitarian crisis in the war sparked by Hamas’s October 7 attack against Israel.
More than four months of relentless fighting and air strikes have flattened much of the Hamas-run coastal territory, pushing its population of around 2.4 million to the brink of famine, according to the UN.
International concern has in recent weeks centered on Gaza’s southernmost city of Rafah, where more than 1.4 million people forced to flee their homes elsewhere in the territory are now living in crowded shelters and makeshift tents.
The last city untouched by Israeli ground troops, Rafah also serves as the main entry point via neighboring Egypt for desperately needed relief supplies.
Israel has warned it will expand its ground operations into Rafah if Hamas does not free the remaining hostages held in Gaza by next month’s start of the Muslim holy month Ramadan.
The war started when Hamas launched its attack on October 7, which resulted in the deaths of about 1,160 people in Israel, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally of official Israeli figures.
Hamas militants also took about 250 hostages — 130 of whom remain in Gaza, including 30 presumed dead, according to Israel.
Israel’s retaliatory campaign has killed at least 29,313 people, mostly women and children, according to the latest count by the Hamas-run health ministry in the territory.
War cabinet member Benny Gantz said Israel’s operation in Rafah would begin “after the evacuation of the population,” although his government has not offered any details on where civilians would be evacuated to.
In the early hours of Thursday, AFP reporters heard multiple air strikes on Rafah, particularly in the Al-Shaboura neighborhood.
The Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza said early Thursday that 99 people had been killed around Gaza during the night, most of them women, children and elderly people.
Abdel Rahman Mohamed Jumaa said he lost his family in recent strikes on Rafah.
“I found my wife lying in the street,” he said. “Then I saw a man carrying a girl and I ran toward him and.... picked her up, realizing she was really my daughter.”
He was holding a small shrouded corpse in his arms.
Brett McGurk, the White House coordinator for the Middle East and North Africa, was expected to arrive in Israel Thursday — his second stop in the region after Egypt as part of US efforts to advance a hostage deal and broker a truce.
Hamas’s chief Ismail Haniyeh was in Cairo for talks as well, according to the group.
Israel’s Gantz said there were efforts to “promote a new plan for the return of the hostages.”
“We are seeing the first signs that indicate the possibility of progress in this direction.”
Matthew Miller, US State Department spokesman, said Washington was hoping for an “agreement that secures a temporary ceasefire where we can get the hostages out and get humanitarian assistance,” but declined to give details on ongoing negotiations.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has insisted the army will keep fighting until it has destroyed Hamas and freed the remaining hostages.
Israel’s parliament on Wednesday overwhelmingly backed a proposal by Netanyahu to oppose any unilateral recognition of a Palestinian state.
The vote came days after the Washington Post reported that US President Joe Biden’s administration and a small group of Arab nations were working out a comprehensive plan for long-term peace between Israel and the Palestinians.
It included a firm timeline for the establishment of a Palestinian state, the report said.
Separately, a report by an Israeli group that fights sexual violence said Hamas’s October 7 attack also involved systematic sexual assaults on civilians, based on witness testimonies, public and classified information, and interviews.
The report came the same week UN rights experts called for an independent probe into alleged Israeli abuses against Palestinian women and girls — which Israel rejected as “despicable and unfounded claims.”
Israeli officials have repeatedly alleged the militants committed violent sexual assaults during the attack — something Hamas has denied.
Combat and chaos have stalled sporadic aid deliveries for civilians in Gaza, while in Khan Yunis — a city just north of Rafah — medical charity Doctors Without Borders (MSF) said an Israeli tank had fired on a house sheltering their employees and families.
Two relatives of MSF staff were killed and six others injured, it said, condemning the strike in the “strongest possible terms.”
When contacted by AFP about the incident, the Israeli army said its forces had “fired at a building that was identified as a building where terror activity is occurring,” adding that it “regrets” harm to civilians.
In the same town, the Palestinian Red Crescent said another hospital was also hit by “artillery shelling.”
Israel has repeatedly said Hamas militants use civilian infrastructure including hospitals as operational bases — claims that Hamas has denied.


Israel sounds sirens in Eilat, intercepts aerial target

Israel sounds sirens in Eilat, intercepts aerial target
Updated 22 February 2024
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Israel sounds sirens in Eilat, intercepts aerial target

Israel sounds sirens in Eilat, intercepts aerial target
  • Eilat, on the Red Sea, has in the past been the target of long-distance launches by Yemeni Houthis

JERUSALEM: Israel’s military said it intercepted a target in the area of the Red Sea on Thursday after sirens warning of incoming rockets and missiles sounded in the southern city of Eilat.
“The target did not cross into Israeli territory and did not pose a threat to civilians. The sirens were sounded according to policy,” the military said.
Eilat, on the Red Sea, has in the past been the target of long-distance launches by Yemeni Houthis, in solidarity with Palestinians since the outbreak in October of the Gaza war.