Middle East round-up: Israeli forces storm Al-Aqsa Mosque

Here’s a round-up of Al Jazeera’s Middle East coverage this week.

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[Ahmed Gharabli/AFP)

Israeli forces storm Al-Aqsa in Jerusalem, airstrikes in Syria, and visualising the Iraq war. Here’s your round up of our coverage, written by Abubakr Al-Shamahi, Al Jazeera Digital’s Middle East and North Africa editor.

The pictures coming out of Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem this week were hard to look at. They showed Israeli forces storming the holy site and attacking Palestinians worshipping inside. The raid took place during Ramadan, and after night prayers, many of those inside were taking part in a form of Muslim worship known as itikaf, which involves staying in a mosque for a period of time.

Witnesses said that Israeli forces smashed through the upper windows of Al-Aqsa Mosque, the third holiest in Islam, and then threw stun grenades and fired tear gas at the people inside. Videos show Israeli soldiers beating the Palestinians with batons, and forcing them to lay handcuffed on the floor of the mosque before being taken away under detention.

Israeli police said they were forced to enter the mosque because “masked agitators” had locked themselves inside, and were armed with fireworks, sticks and rocks. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu – who was already under fire from a significant cross section of the Israeli public over government policies – said Israel was “committed to maintaining freedom of worship”.

The violent incident has led to talk of a further escalation, particularly with a large number of ultranationalist Jews expected to enter Al-Aqsa compound to mark the Jewish festival of Passover, which began on Wednesday.

Palestinians are warning that the increased presence of Jews at the site may be part of an attempt to gradually take it over. A Jewish activist has already been arrested for planning to conduct an animal sacrifice for Passover there – a practice considered provocative, and one that hasn’t been done since ancient times.

Ultranationalism has been growing ever more powerful in Israel, with a presence now at the highest echelons of government. On Sunday, the Israeli cabinet approved plans for a national guard that would come under the direct control of the far-right national security minister, Itamar Ben-Gvir, leading to accusations that he plans to use the force to target Palestinians.

Syria, Iran and Israel

Israeli air attacks on pro-Iranian targets in Syria are nothing new, but they’ve been stepped up in recent weeks. On Friday, one attack killed two members of Iran’s elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. Iran is one of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s closest allies, and its forces have fought against the Syrian opposition. Other incidents this week included Syrian state media reports of two civilians killed, as well as the injury of five Syrian soldiers. Israel itself said it had shot down a drone that had entered its airspace from Syria.

So what will Iran do in response? Well, according to the experts that Maziar Motamedi spoke to for his analysis, it might be a case of biding their time until deciding to act.

Visualising the invasion of Iraq

As part of our ongoing coverage of the 20th anniversary of the Iraq war, our team over at AJLabs has taken a deep dive into the legacy of the conflict, and specifically what happened to the millions of refugees and internally displaced people after the war. The numbers are sobering, with the war showing a skyrocketing of IDPs, followed by an even bigger increase during the rise of ISIL (ISIS).

And Now for Something Different

Camel wrestling: Two males fighting each other, a female nearby to keep their interest going. It’s a Turkish sport seen as part of the country’s heritage. Habibe Yuksel is the only woman on Turkey’s Aegean coast officially involved in camel wrestling, and believes she’s keeping her family’s history and culture alive. But animal rights groups aren’t so sure, and call the practice cruel.


Iran appoints envoy to UAE | France to try Syrian government officials for crimes against humanity | Iraq’s government signs deal with Kurdistan Regional Government to resume oil exports | Rights groups urge UN not to adopt IHRA antisemitism definition | Tunisia’s President Saied makes public appearance after health rumours | Sudan’s Nile fishermen worry as climate crisis means fewer fish | US military says it killed top ISIL leader in raid in Syria | Egypt’s President el-Sisi visits Saudi Arabia | Christians mark Palm Sunday in Jerusalem | Oil prices surge after OPEC’s surprise output cut | Algerian journalist Ihsane El Kadi sentenced to five years in prison | Iran’s Raisi says hijab is the law after yoghurt attack | Sudan factions delay post-coup deal on civilian rule | Tunisia cuts water supply to citizens due to drought | Turkish Parliament ratifies Finland’s NATO membership | Saudi and Iranian foreign ministers meet in China, agree to reopen embassies |

Quote of the Week

“One of the most priceless tasks in the world is reuniting a mother with her child. Being part of that happiness meant a lot to us as well.” | Derya Yanik, Turkey’s family and social services minister, after a baby girl was reunited with her mother, who had been mistakenly declared dead after the devastating earthquakes in February. The child had endured 128 hours under rubble, and was only reunited with her family after 54 days of separation.

Source: Al Jazeera