Date: 26 October 2009
Time: 12:00 GMT
PCHR Condemns IOF’s Raid of al-Aqsa Mosque
The Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) strongly condemns the Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) raid of the al-Aqsa Mosque in occupied East Jerusalem on Sunday morning, 25 October 2009, and their use of excessive force against Palestinian civilians who attempted to stop the raid.
The raid and related incidents followed a call by extremist Jewish groups, particularly the “Organization for Human Rights on the Temple Mount,” urging extremist Jews to break into the al-Aqsa Mosque and its yards to conduct Talmudic rituals to mark Rambam’s ascension. Since Saturday night, 24 October 2009, IOF have been intensively deployed throughout the Old City of Jerusalem. The al-Aqsa Mosque and worshippers had previously been subjected to a similar assault on 27 September 2009, when a number of Israeli settlers attempted to break into the yards of the Mosque.
According to investigations conducted by PCHR, at approximately 08:00 on Sunday, 25 October 2009, the Israeli police and “Border Guards” broke into the yards of the al-Aqsa Mosque in the old town of occupied East Jerusalem. Some police units closed all gates of the Mosque.
According to eyewitnesses, heavily armed Israeli forces broke into the yards of the al-Aqsa Mosque through the al-Maghariba Gate in the west side of the Mosque. IOF employed sound bombs and tear gas and chased and violently beat worshippers and other individuals in the yard, including women, children and elderly people. IOF also closed all the Mosque’s gates and arrested the guards. At least 200 worshippers were trapped inside the Mosque, as IOF closed the doors with iron chains and locks. IOF did not allow the entry of food and water to those who were held inside the Mosque. A number of worshippers suffered from tear gas inhalation. In the meantime, an Israeli police aircraft had been hovering over the area since the morning.
At approximately 10:00, IOF broke into the room designated for the Azan (the call for prayers) and damaged equipment; the Azan was not transmitted.
At approximately 11:00, the Israeli police dispersed a peaceful demonstration organized by women who were on their way from Bab Hatta area towards the al-Aqsa Mosque to express solidarity with those who were inside the Mosque.
At approximately 11:30, IOF allowed men aged over 50 to enter the al-Aqsa Mosque. However, less than half an hour later, IOF broke into the yards again and violently beat all those who were in the area, including two journalists and three paramedics. They also arrested a number of Palestinian civilians, including Hatem Abdul Qader, Member of the Palestinian Legislative Council, but released them later. IOF also besieged a number of worshippers in the Dome of the Rock Mosque and the Southern Mosque after locking the doors. IOF further prevented journalists and medical crews from entering the al-Aqsa Mosque.
Clashes between Palestinian civilians and the Israeli police continued until the afternoon. According to medical sources, 25 civilians, including 7 women, were injured. Most injuries resulted from violent beating, tear gas and shrapnel from sound bombs.
PCHR strongly condemns repeated attacks by IOF against the al-Aqsa Mosque, and stresses that:
1) East Jerusalem is an integral part of the Palestinian Territories that were occupied by Israel following the June 1967 war.
2) Measures taken by Israeli occupation authorities following the occupation of the city, in the foremost, the Israeli Knesset’s decision on 28 June 1967 to annex the city, its decision on 30 July 1980 considering “complete and united Jerusalem as the capital of Israel” and the decision to expand the municipal boundaries, a flagrant violation of international law and United Nations resolutions.
3) Measures and plans implemented by Israeli occupation authorities in occupied Jerusalem can never change its legal status.
4) Such actions are in violation of Article 53 of the Protocol Additional to the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949, and Relating to the Protection of Victims of International Armed Conflicts (Protocol I). Article 16 of Protocol I prohibits ” any acts of hostility directed against historic monuments, works of art or places of worship which constitute the cultural or spiritual heritage of peoples, and to use them in support of the military effort.”
5) Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949 prevents the Occupying Power from “deporting or transferring parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies.”
In light of the above:
1) PCHR calls upon the High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention, jointly or individually, to fulfill their legal and moral obligations to ensure Israel’s respect for the Convention in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT) according to Article 1 of the Convention, and believes that the international silence and inaction encourage Israel to act as a State above law and perpetrate more violations of international human rights and humanitarian law, including efforts intended to establish a Jewish majority in occupied East Jerusalem.
2) PCHR calls upon the international community to immediately act to force the Israeli government to stop all settlement activities in the OPT, especially in East Jerusalem, and to dismantle existing settlement, the existence of which constitute war crimes under international humanitarian law.
3) PCHR calls upon the European Union and/or its Member States to activate Article 2 of the Euro-Israeli Association Agreement, which links continuous economic cooperation between the two parties with Israel’s respect for human rights, and to stop dealing with Israeli products, especially those produced in Israeli settlements in the OPT, including East Jerusalem.