While Al-Aqsa Mosque faces Israeli forces, fragile ceasefire remains intact

Israeli forces stormed Al-Aqsa compound on Friday night, firing tear gas, sound grenades and rubber-coated steel bullets in an unprecidented attack on Palestinian worshippers.

UN requests Gaza and Israel to show restraint as Palestinians in Al-Aqsa Mosque witness Israeli police with tear gas after Friday prayer.

Egyptian brokered ceasefire came into effect early on Friday bringing an end to 11 days of bombardment with over 250 casualties, the majority belonging to Gaza. Israeli Prime Minister claims the bombardment as a ‘successful operation’ while Hamas claims it as a victory for Palestinians.

Following the ceasefire agreement, the Al-Aqsa mosque in the occupied East Jerusalem witnessed the Israeli police force. This time it was with tear gas and arms held against Palestinians following the Friday prayer. Israeli police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld told AFP news agency that this was a ‘riot’ suppressing measure taken against Palestinians who threw stones at them.

Tension rose when the Damascus gate, an entry point into the old city, was fenced by Israeli police in early April. This was the beginning of Ramadan when thousands of Palestinians paid a visit to the Al-Aqsa mosque. Palestinians felt that they were being deliberately targeted while Israeli claimed it to be a crowd control measure. Though the fences were removed, the city witnessed fighting between unarmed Palestinians and armed Israeli forces.

Simultaneously, in Sheikh Jarrah, Palestinian families were threatened with an eviction notice by the Israeli Supreme Court earlier in May. PM Netanyahu deemed the eviction order which stands against the International law is being deemed as a rational step.

According to PM Netanyahu, Jerusalem is the capital of Israel so the order does not break any law. As a result, thousands of frustrated Palestinians broke out on Sheikh Jarrah streets.

Amid the rising tension, more troops were deployed to Temple Mount on May 7th where over 70,000 Palestinians gathered to offer the final Friday prayer of Ramadan. Israeli police stormed the compound with stun grenades and fired rubber-coated steel bullets. Out of the 215 injured Palestinians, around 153 were hospitalized.

As a result of festering clashes between Palestinian protestors and Israeli forces, Hamas issued a warning to withdraw Israeli forces from Al-Aqsa mosque compound and Sheikh Jarrah by 18:00 on May 10th. When the deadline passed, Hamas fired long-range rockets towards Jerusalem for the first time in years.

Israeli launched hundreds of airstrikes in retaliation during the operation. Though Hamas fired over 4300 rockets, only a few reached the ground. Others were destroyed in the air. Israel suffered over 12 casualties. They were protected by Israeli’s strong Iron Dome Defence System.

Whereas, Israeli attacked Hamas military infrastructure including a vast tunnel network, a Palestinian refugee camp, The Associated Press and Al Jazeera office. Israel claimed to inflict heavy damage on Palestine.

According to the Gaza Health Ministry, at least 243 Palestinians were martyred, including 66 children and 39 women, with 1,910 people wounded through aerial bombardments. Over 58,000 Palestinians fled their homes, seeking shelter in U.N. schools.

Gaza infrastructure, already weakened by a 14-year blockade, faces a daunting pandemic outbreak, health emergency, high unemployment and humanitarian crisis. According to the Save the Children advocacy group, the Israel bombing has damaged over 50 schools across the territory, disrupting the education of over 42,000 children.

According to the World Health Organisation, at least 18 hospitals, clinics have been damaged along with one health facility. Gaza has run out of nearly half of all essential drugs.

Palestinians rallied by thousands on the streets after the ceasefire took effect on Friday. Despite the horrifying toll which brought devastation over already impoverished Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip, Palestinians claim it as a clear victory over more powerful Israel.

Meanwhile, Israel’s Defence Minister Benny Gantz lauded the bombardment. He claimed “achievements unprecedented in their scale, precision, and strategic significance for the struggle with terrorist organizations in Gaza.” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu claimed “exceptional success,” after the end of the deadly conflict.

The ceasefire was brokered by Egypt after the US pressed down Israeli government. PM Netanyahu faced heavy criticism from far-right parties who called the ceasefire agreement “embarrassing”. Gaza on other hand takes pride in the fact that even after a weaker defence system, Israel was not able to stop its airstrikes.

Despite the ceasefire agreement, Israeli forces yet again stormed at the Al-Aqsa mosque where Palestinians stayed to celebrate the truce. According to a written statement by the Palestine Red Crescent, over 20 people were left injured while two were hospitalized. Two hours later, reports came in that Palestinians of Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood were placed “under siege” by Israeli authorities. The clash again reflects a fragile ceasefire.

Turkish Foreign Minister tweeted “Ceasefire in Gaza, #Attack in Jerusalem! Israel’s insincere, hypocritical attitude continues.” UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has urged both sides to respect the status quo at the holy sites and to show restraint.

The reason for the Israeli police firing stun grenades after the ceasefire is still unknown. They have arrested 16 people after the celebratory demonstration by hundreds in which they waved Palestinian and Hamas Flag.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has received a call from US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken after the recent development. Abbas has appreciated US efforts “to provide humanitarian aid” and has urged the Biden administration to pressure Israel to halt the violence.

Saudi Arabia King Salman has condemned the Israeli move. King Salman said that he will continuously ask all political parties to put pressure on Israel’s “occupation government”.

Amid PM Netanyahu’s bizarre claim of “exceptional success” and impoverished people in Gaza who celebrate the victory of Palestinians, how successful the truce will be is yet to be seen. Israel has received a continuous warning from the U.S., it’s most important ally and neighbouring Arab countries. But the situation in occupied East Jerusalem and Sheikh Jarrah if not handled properly can spark unrest in near future.

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