Israeli police, who control the entry to the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, have been preventing anyone under 40 years old from praying on Thursday and Friday, today firing tear gas and concussion grenades at worshippers. The Al-Aqsa Mosque, third holiest site in Islam, has been a hot spot in the current ‘intifada’ which began six years ago with riots at the mosque following a provocative visit to the site by then-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, surrounded by dozens of soldiers.
Muslims around the world have long been frustrated at the fact that access to their holy site is controlled and restricted at the whim of the Jewish police who control entry. Many Muslims are unable to enter Israel at all, simply because they are from ‘Arab’ countries, and Israeli borders are closed to citizens of many Arab countries.
The small number of Muslims who are able to enter Jerusalem to worship at their third-holiest site – mainly Palestinians who live in Jerusalem and have been issued ‘Jerusalem IDs’ by Israeli authorities, still find their access to the Mosque restricted by the Jewish Israeli police stationed at all entrances, who frequently forbid entry to young people.
At the same time, Israeli authorities have been supporting Jewish extremists who have been digging under the Mosque in recent months in supposed ‘archaeological digs’ which historians warn are undermining the foundations of the fragile ancient Mosque. Some of the Jewish groups have admitted that their ultimate aim is to topple the Mosque, in order to replace it with a Jewish temple. Such a move, implicitly supported by the Israeli government, would incite massive hostility toward Israel from the 1 billion Muslims throughout the world.