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EDITORIAL: As Palestinian prayed and celebrated the holy month of Ramazan inside the al-Aqsa Mosque, the third holiest site in Islam, in a deliberate provocation last week dozens of extremist Jews, mostly settlers, entered the mosque compound escorted by Israeli police.

That they did even though under a rabbinical tradition they are prohibited from praying at the site, which Jews claim to be a part of their holy place, the Dome of the Rock. Relentless violence by Israeli occupation forces against Muslim worshippers has since continued.

On Saturday, hundreds of Palestinians barricaded themselves inside the mosque, resisting the occupation forces’ attempts to evict them from the mosque.

They are worried about designs of far-right Jewish groups who make no secret of their desire to demolish some of the Islamic structures in the mosque compound for constructing a Jewish temple there.

Israel has already done so at Ibrahimi Mosque located in the West Bank city of Hebron, converting a part of it into a synagogue.

Palestinians also see mosque intrusions as part of the Israeli policy of systemic dispossession of their rights through expulsions from the ancestral homes and farmlands for expansion of Jewish settlements, in sheer violation of humanitarian law and international treaties. Relevant to this context is Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention.

Among other things, it says: “the Occupying Power shall not deport or transfer part of its own civilian population [settlers] into the territory it occupies”. But backed by its powerful friend, the US, the Jewish state remains disdainful of the international law and the various UN Security Council resolutions demanding an end to occupation.

Its present most right-wing government ever, headed by Benjamin Netanyahu and comprising several settlers, has announced its plans to escalate settlements activity. National security minister, Bezalel Smotrich, has even hinted at ethnic cleansing, saying, among other things, “there are no Palestinians because there isn’t a Palestinian people.”

Yet US President Joe Biden, who claims putting human rights is at the centre of his foreign policy, continues to ignore all crimes against the Palestinian people. In fact, talking to his Israeli counterpart a few months ago, he had said: “if there were not an Israel, we’d have to invent one.”

No wonder he has refused to reverse his predecessor Donald Trump’s decision to support Israel’s illegal annexation of East Jerusalem as well as Syrian Golan Heights occupied through an act of war.

Never mind if he is now demanding Russia vacate the Donbas and two other regions in eastern Ukraine it seized control of in a ‘special military operation’.

The Jewish state’s actions in the al-Aqsa Mosque have outraged not only the Palestinians but Muslims everywhere.

Last Thursday, the UN Security Council convened an emergency session called by the UAE, the Arab League’s representative in the UNSC, and China. The closed-door meeting discussed the situation arising out of Israeli violence against the Palestinian worshippers.

Later, the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) held an extraordinary meeting of its executive council in Jeddah, and passed a resolution condemning the escalation by the Israeli occupation forces and “terrorist settlers by repeatedly storming the blessed al-Aqsa mosque during Ramazan”.

It also warned of —unspecified — consequences of the continued infringement by “the Israeli occupation authorities, their officials, and terrorist settlers” of the sanctity of the mosque “to inflame the situation and provoke a religious confrontation”. It remains to be seen, though, if these strong words are to be translated into action.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2023

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