For the first time in decades, Israel closed the al-Aqsa mosque compound in Jerusalem’s Old City to Friday prayers.
The closure followed an attack near an entrance to the compound which houses the al-Aqsa mosque, one of the holiest sites for Muslims.
Three Palestinian citizens of Israel ambushed police officers, fatally injuring two and lightly wounding another.
The assailants fled back into the compound where there was reportedly an exchange of fire before the Palestinians were killed by Israeli occupation forces.
Since the killings on Friday morning, Israel has arrested dozens of employees of the Waqf, the Islamic trust that oversees the holy site.
When the compound was reopened two days later, Palestinians and Waqf officials refused to enter, objecting to metal detectors installed by Israel.
They have continued to stage sit-ins and perform prayers in the streets around the compound in protest of the Israeli restrictions.
Israeli forces have injured scores of worshippers as protests continued into Tuesday night.
Independent journalist Dan Cohen says that in reporting these events mainstream media have missed a critical part of the story.
He told The Real News: “The huge context that is missing, which might explain what precipitated this attack, was that there is a far right, what I would call an apocalyptic right-wing Israeli movement that tours the al-Aqsa compound under military protection on a daily basis, where they make explicit threats to destroy the mosques hoping that they will provoke Palestinians to react violently.”
“Then the Israeli military will have the pretext to arrest, expel and even kill anyone who resists with the idea that eventually Israel will control the entire compound and be able to destroy the mosques and build a temple in its place,” Cohen added.
Israel may follow the playbook it used in Hebron, where it took the 1994 massacre of 29 Palestinians by an American Jewish settler as a pretext to tighten its control of the Old City and partition the Ibrahimi mosque.
“If you go to Hebron now, it’s one of the most shocking forms of Israeli apartheid that you’ll see,” Cohen said.
The encroachment on al-Aqsa is spearheaded by the so-called Temple movement – messianic Jewish extremists who seek to replace the existing al-Aqsa mosque with a Jewish temple.
While once on the fringes of Israeli society, this movement has gained power in Israel as well as support from the Israeli government.
Cohen said that there has been a “theocratization” of the Israeli military and institutions.
“In the past decades and especially the past couple of years, the Temple movement – mainstreamed into Israeli society as religious Zionist fundamentalists – have achieved prominence and really taken over the state,” Cohen said.
He added: “Now this movement to destroy the al-Aqsa compound is positioned as the tip of the spear in the Zionist project, in Israeli society, against Palestinians.”
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