Syed Tahir Rashdi
Forces of Apartheid Israel once again stormed the Al-Aqsa Mosque, assaulted Palestinian worshippers and fired sound bombs that caused a fire to break out in trees inside the Al-Aqsa compound on Monday evening. Since the beginning of Ramadan, the city of Jerusalem has witnessed attacks by the Israeli occupation police forces and settlers, especially at Damascus Gate and the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood.On Friday and Saturday evenings, Israeli forces attacked worshippers in Al-Aqsa Mosque and Jerusalem resulting in the injury of about 300 people, according to the Palestine Red Crescent Society. In 2015, similar clashes occurred at the mosque between Palestinian youths and Israeli forces after weeks of tension and a number of confrontations at the site. It occurred hours before the beginning of the Jewish festival of Sukkot. At the time, Very Reverend Hosam Naom, dean of St George the Martyr Cathedral in Jerusalem, urged Israel to “restrain Jewish extremists before they drag the whole region into more conflict and more violence”. Khalil Toufakji, head of Maps and Survey Department at the Orient House, Jerusalem, also said the clashes were part of Israel’s larger plan to occupy more land and build a synagogue inside the Aqsa courtyard. Israeli police barged in to Al Aqsa Mosque on the last Friday of the 27th Ramadan, using ‘Stun Grenades’, ‘Rubber Bullets’ and ‘Tear Gas. The fully armed intruders with their boots on assaulted the Palestinian men, women and children while they were praying. As a result of their criminal use of firearms, gas cannisters and physical abuse, 300 x Palestinians have been injured and hospitalized, while some are at the deathbed. Desecrating the holy mosque has become a norm for the Israeli soldiers. This brazen act has been undertaken at a time when four more Arab states have established ties with Israel and others are waiting in line. By and large the Saudi led Arab world has accepted the hegemony of Israel in the Middle East and have submitted to its policies. The over seven decade old Palestinian cause has been abandoned. This Extreme act of timidity and cowardice has been taken at the behest of the US under the myopic fond hope that the rules of the Arabs rulers would become safe. They forget that Israel has a fixed agenda of Greater Israel which stretches from River Nile to Euphrates. East Jerusalem, Golan heights, West Bank of Jordon River and Gaza Strip have been annexed for good and now the new Israeli settlers are being settled in the homes of the Palestinians after forcibly evicting them. Locally, Hamas vowed to avenge; while internationally, Ayatollah Khomeini in a televised address to the Iranian nation condemned the barbarian act. Turkish officials also snubbed it, and Erdogon spoke his heart out. The four Arab states which had recognised Israel recently as well as Jordon and Pakistan condemned the atrocious vandalism but in mild words. The rest of the Muslim world remained mum since Al Aqsa doesn’t concern them. USA called for restraint on both sides (US norm to warn Palestinians not to respond after Israeli high handedness). France and UK as usual sided with israel. Israel is taking full advantage of the backing of the US, and insensitive and sleeping Muslim Ummah and the weakness of Al Fatah led by ruling party, Al-Fatah (led by President Mahmoud Abbas) and strangulation/ marginalisation of Hamas, which now is being backed by most of the Palestinians. These factors enable Israel to resort to inhuman atrocities against the hapless Palestinians locked up in Gaza, East Jerusalem and West Bank. Al Aqsa Mosque’s unfortunate incident comes amid cancellation of elections by President Abbas, which were due to be held on May 22 (last elections held in 2006). President Abbas has cancelled them as all public polls discarded him and Al Fatah. Hamas and its leader, Marwan Barjouti have lost a chance to represent Palestinian case internationally, owing to the political ambitions of President Abbas, who is now 86 years of age and does not have much to offer to the cause of Palestinians. Al-Aqsa being the third most holy mosque, it’s defence should not only be the sole responsibility of the people of Palestine’, but should be of great concern for the entire Muslim Ummah. So should be the Palestinian cause. The Muslim leaders and the OIC must wake up and act before it is too late. Israel will not stop at Al Aqsa near which it wishes to build the Jewish tomb, its next targets will be Madina and Mecca. The Muslim World must jointly back the Palestinian cause, and raise their voices collectively against the barbarism of Israel supported by the US and the West.If attacks by Israeli security forces on al-Aqsa Mosque continue, international attention may begin to focus on the question of whether they would constitute a war crime. Attacks on cultural sites during armed conflicts are considered to be a war crime under a number of international laws and treaties. The Rome Statute of 1998, which established the International Criminal Court (ICC) at The Hague, declared that anyone “intentionally directing attacks against buildings dedicated to religion, education, art, science or charitable purposes [or] historic monuments” was committing a war crime.There would not need to be significant damage – the statute criminalises the attack and not its consequences.The ICC announced earlier this year that it was mounting an investigation into crimes allegedly committed by both Israelis and Palestinians in the occupied Palestinian territories. Palestine has signed the Rome Statute. The Israeli government also signed up, but then decided it did not wish to be a state party, and denies the ICC has any right to investigate alleged crimes it has committed.
(Writer is a freelance writer based in Shahdadpur, Sindh, Pakistan. He is pursuing BS Pakistan Study at University of Sindh and he can be reached at syedtahir926 @gmail.com.)