Israel closed down the Al-Aqsa Mosque last Friday 14 July where for the first time in decades Friday Juma congregational weekly prayers were cancelled.
This led thousands of worshipers to pray on the streets surrounded by a barricade manned by armed Israeli officers.
The action was taken following a gun battle between three Palestinians who were later shot dead and two Israeli police officers earlier that morning.
Meanwhile it has been reported that the Imam of the Al-Aqsa Mosque was shot by Israeli Police outside the gates of the Mosque.
The Imam, Sheikh Ikrima Sabri had just finished leading the night prayer on Wednesday when Israeli police attempted to disperse worshippers by force, leaving many injured, some seriously, including the Imam, Palestinian Red Crescent has reported.
The Palestinians have been continually protesting against the new security measures including metal detectors and security cameras put into place by Israeli authorities.
These implementations sparked great concern among Palestinians who fear that Israel is trying to retake control of the site.
“The closure of Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, the occupation in itself and the prevention of the call for prayers are all unfair and unjust and constitute a violation to the United Nations resolutions and the international agreements”, says Omar Kiswani, director of the Al-Aqsa Mosque.
Being the third holiest site in Islam after the Sacred Mosque in Mecca and the Mosque of the prophet in Medina, the Al-Aqsa Mosque holds significant value to all Muslims. The compound is also known to Jews as the Temple Mount – the holiest site in Judaism.
Given its momentous status as well as its religious and historical significance, the Al-Aqsa has been the centre of controversy since the establishment of the Israel in 1948. Since then, the compound has been under continuous administration to prevent violent clashes and conflict. Although the site has been relatively preserved, in more recent years Israel has increasingly breached its agreement of maintaining the “status quo”.
According to Osama Al Sharif,, a renowned Middle East expert, “Palestinians see the closure of the compound and the installation of cameras and electronic gates as dangerous steps by Israel and part of a scheme to enforce sovereignty”.
Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, says that these additional security measures will “prevent future attacks” and give Israel “almost complete control of what goes on” in the compound.
As Israel continues to abrogate the status quo and enforce its unilateral decisions, the fate of Al-Aqsa becomes progressively more uncertain.
The harm caused by these acts goes beyond the ongoing battle of territorial sovereignty between Israel and Palestine. Rather, Israel’s actions have instigated greater concerns regarding the violation of religious freedom given the possibility that this holy site may completely come under Israel’s control.