Israeli Far-right Calls To Dismantle Dome Of Rock In Al-Aqsa Mosque

Bentzi Gopstein, the founder and leader of Lehava, an Israeli far-right group, calls for the demolition of the Dome of the Rock Mosque in occupied East Jerusalem. On Wednesday, he published a post online where he called on Israeli settlers to unite on “Jerusalem Day” on 29 May to break into Al-Aqsa and start dismantling the revered Muslim landmark.

“Jerusalem Day, which falls on 29 May, is the day the demolition of the Dome of the Rock will begin,” Gopstein wrote. Additionally, he said this would pave the way for building a Jewish temple at Al-Aqsa Mosque.

“Jerusalem Day” is an annual Israeli holiday celebrated on the 28th day of the month of Iyar in the Hebrew calendar, commemorating the city’s “unification” when the Israeli military occupied East Jerusalem in the 1967 Six-Day War and later annexed the Palestinian city in violation of international law, Middle East Eye contextualizes.

Al-Aqsa Mosque is Islam’s third holiest site and Muslims believe the Dome of the Rock is the place from which the Prophet Muhammad ascended to heaven. As The Siasat Daily describes, the Dome of the Rock is one of the two main sanctuaries of the Al-Aqsa complex and a World Heritage Site, according to UNESCO.

Gopstein’s words have caused furious reactions from Palestinians. Palestine’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs condemned Lehava’s calls to destroy the Dome of the Rock, describing it as a “Jewish terrorist group”. 

The Foreign Ministry held the Israeli government “responsible for these racist calls that incite further escalation of the occupation’s aggression against Jerusalem and its sanctities, which threatens an uncontrollable religious war and the commission of more violations and crimes against our people in general and against Jerusalemites in particular.”

In a statement, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs also condemned the calls of the “Jewish terrorist organization, Hava, to mobilize the widest participation in the storming of Al-Aqsa Mosque next Sunday, and to start implementing the plan to target the Dome of the Rock, according to its claim”.

Months of tensions

The words from the founder and leader of Lehava represent a further step in mounting tensions in Al-Aqsa Mosque. Last month, Israeli settlers and forces stormed the mosque repeatedly and performed Jewish prayers at the site. These lead to a violent police crackdown on Palestinians, which is a usual practice.

Lehava activists had also called to mobilize and pick up arms in April, and marched last year in the city shouting “death to Arabs”, Middle East Eye informs.

Furthermore, these calls from Lehava have come weeks after Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said that they won’t accept foreign intervention in Al-Aqsa. He retracted agreements between Israel and Jordan on managing Al-Aqsa Mosque’s compound and preventing incursions by Jewish settlers into its courtyards.

This decision has been seen as a denial of the 1994 Jordanian-Israeli peace treaty that gave Jordan a role in managing and supervising Islamic and Christian sanctities in Jerusalem.

Decisions regarding Al-Aqsa Mosque and Jerusalem will be taken by the Israeli government”, Bennett added on Sunday 8. He claimed Israel would continue to maintain respectful treatment toward people of all religions in Jerusalem, which reality has proven to be untruthful.

In the middle of these calls on dismantling the Dome, there continues to be the persecution of Jerusalem’s former Grand Mufti and main preacher of Al-Aqsa Mosque, Sheikh Ekrema Sabri, by the Israeli occupation. The occupation has now prevented him from traveling to intimidate him and will not stop him from continuing to preach at Al-Aqsa Mosque.

Israeli occupation authorities have several times banned Sheikh Sabri from travel and expelled him from Al-Aqsa Mosque over his criticism of the violations of the Israeli occupation on the Palestinians and their religious sites.

According to news reports, Israel targets Jerusalemites through arrests, deportations, and fines, with the aim of keeping them away from Al-Aqsa Mosque and leaving the mosque open for Jewish settlers.

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