For the first time in decades, Jum’ah was cancelled at the third holiest site in Islam, Masjid Al Aqsa in Jerusalem, following a dramatic shootout in the compound surrounding the mosque.
Three young Palestinian men have been shot and killed by Israeli police forces after the men shot and killed two Israeli police officers early on Friday morning. The Palestinian men, who carried Israeli nationality and had no prior convictions, shot at the Israeli police men with crude home made machine guns and a pistol before moving to the surrounds of the holy site for sanctuary. Israeli police followed them and an intense firefight ensued, with all three of the Palestinian men being killed.
[Below graphic taken from The Guardian website]
- Three assailants shoot at police officers near the Lions’ gate, killing two.
- The attackers run into the compound, chased by police.
- The firefight ends near the Dome of the Spirits with the three attackers killed by security forces.
The Israeli police men who were killed were identified as Hael Sathawi, 30, and Kamil Shnan, 22. The young Palestinian men who were Mohammed Ahmed Mohammed Jabareen, 29, Mohammed Hamed Abd Al-Latif Jabareen, 19, and Mohammed Ahmed Mafdal Jabareen, also 19. The precarious situation attracted the attention of onlookers, some of whom captured the scenes on their mobile phones. The entire compound was immediately closed off, with Israeli forces conducting searches through the area and interrogations of worshippers at the site.
The incident has predictably raised tensions in the one of the most politically sensitive regions of the world, and some Israeli politicians were quick to try and take advantage of it – citing the ever convenient terrorism card. Deputy defence minister, Eli Ben-Dahan called for Israel to “bolster its rule and control over the [holy sites]” and Moti Yogev of the Israeli parliament said the compound should be “closed to Muslim [worshippers] for a long time”.
Muslims were evacuated from the area and the closure of the site was announced alongside the cancellation of Jum’ah prayers that attract roughly 10,000 worshippers every Friday. This extreme measure raised the ire of local Palestinians who were enraged at the Israeli closure of the site and strongly contested it. Hundreds of Israeli security forces were deployed to the site in order to quell any potential unrest.
There was a refusal by Muslims to leave the area and they conducted an open air Jum’ah prayer in surrounding streets and alleyways as a show of strength and protest against the closure. Soon after, local Muslim leader Sheikh Mohammad Ahmed Hussein, who decried the mosque closure, was taken into custody . His son Omar said that his father was taken taken violently and to an unknown location, although he was released not long after.
The occupation of the sacred Masjid, Islam’s third holiest site, is the latest in a long line of insulting and derogatory measures carried out by Israel upon the Muslims of Palestine since the creation of Israel itself. The ongoing illegitimate occupation is the source of the problem, and countless lives have been lost because of it – which is far worse than any number of prayers being cancelled. As long as Israel exists, these kinds of occurrences, the closure of sacred sites and the loss of sacred life, are sure to unfortunately continue. In the timeless words of our Prophet ﷺ:
“The destruction of the world is lighter on Allah than the killing of one believer” (Tirmidhi)