The Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) condemns the measures taken by the Israeli Government against al-Aqsa Mosque in occupied Jerusalem. These measures included closing the Mosque; banning prayers; and arresting and investigating with dozens of Islamic Endowments (Awqaf) Department’s officers, Mosque’s guards and Grand Mufti of Jerusalem. PCHR emphasizes that these measures are part of Israeli policies applied to create a Jewish majority in the City and part of the Israeli collective punishment policy in the Palestinian territory (oPt) although it is prohibited by the International humanitarian law. PCHR calls upon the international community, particularly the Permanent Member States of the UN Security Council and High Contracting Parties to the 1949 Fourth Geneva Convention, to fulfill their moral and legal obligations according tothe UN Charter and the mentioned Convention and to take all deterrent measures against the Israeli government’s serious violations in the oPt. PCHR also calls upon the International community to oblige Israel to stop its measures taken to create a Jewish majority in East Jerusalem, which is an integral part of the oPt.
According to PCHR’s investigations, on Friday early morning, 14 July 2017, an armed clash occurred in al-Aqsa Mosque yards between 3 Palestinians from Um al-Fahem City in Israel and Israeli police permanently stationed at the Mosque’s gates. As a result, two Israeli police officers and the 3 Palestinians were killed. After that, dozens of Israeli soldiers, police and intelligence officers raided the Mosque and completely surrounded it. They denied Palestinians’ access to the Mosque and locked the Islamic Awqaf officers in the Mosque’s rooms, confiscated their cell phones; and took some of them for investigation. The Israeli forces also closed the entrances to the Old City with iron barriers and prevented Jerusalem’s residents from entering it, except for the Old City’s residents. The Israeli Prime Minister, Benyamin Netanyahu, issued a decision to close the Mosque and ban calls to prayer (Adhan) and performing the Friday Prayer in it on the abovementioned day. Later on that day, the Prime Minister issued another decision to close the Mosque completely until Sunday, 16 July 2017, when the Israeli government holds its weekly session. The Adhan is so far banned in the Mosque for the second consecutive day.
On Friday noon, 14 July 2017, hundreds of Muslim worshippers gathered at the outside gates’ entrances to the Mosque in order to perform the Friday Prayer on the streets and public road. When the Prayer finished, the Israeli forces arrested Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Sheikh Mohammed Hussein, for few hours and then released him on bail of NIS10,000. The Israeli forces also arrested and took 58 guards of the Mosque and Islamic Awqaf officers for interrogation in al-Muskubiya police center in West Jerusalem. They were later released, but three of them were kept under investigation after extending their detention to Monday, 17 July 2017. The still arrested persons were identified as Ayman al-Khaldi; Majed al-Tamimi and Tariq Sandouqah.
The Islamic Endowments Department said that after the Jordanian intervention, the Israeli authorities allowed Sheikh ‘Omer al-Keswani, Director of al-Aqsa Mosque, to enter the Mosque yesterday midnight. He toured in some of its facilities, but was not allowed to stay. The Department added the Israeli forces deployed in al-Aqsa Mosque continue for the second consecutive day to raid the Mosque’s facilities such as offices, clinics, the museum, library, mosques and the firefighting center in addition to breaking the locked doors.
PCHR condemns the Israeli government’s recent measures against al-Aqsa Mosque as they violate the freedom of worship and are part of the collective punishment policies against civilians. Thus, PCHR reminds the international community of the Israeli forces’ violation of the 1949 Fourth Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War.
In light of the above, PCHR:
- Emphasizes East Jerusalem is an occupied territory, and all the measures taken by the Israeli authorities following the 1967 occupation of it do not change this legal status;
- Calls upon the UN to work on protecting civilians in the oPt in general and in East Jerusalem in particular for guaranteeing their freedom to worship and protecting their holy sites; and
- Calls upon the High Contracting Parties to the Geneva Conventions to ensure Israel’s commitment as a State Party to the Conventions to apply them in the oPt, particularly occupied East Jerusalem.