The following press release was issued by the Palestinian Centre for Human rights on 1 March 2010:
The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) condemns with the strongest terms storming the yard of the al-Aqsa Mosque in East Jerusalem by hundreds of Israeli settlers and their supporters, escorted by Israeli security forces. PCHR further condemns the use of excessive force by Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) against Palestinian civilians who gathered inside the mosque and/or attempted to prevent the provocative entry of settlers into the mosque. PCHR recalls that the storming of the mosque took place one week after a decision taken by the Israeli government to include the Ibrahimi Mosque in Hebron and Bilal Ben Rabah Mosque in Bethlehem on the list of Israeli archaeological heritage sites. PCHR further notes that repeated attempts to cause disturbances at the al-Aqsa Mosque have been a main reason for the escalation of tensions in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT), the most notable instance being the provocative visit by former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to the Mosque on 28 September 2000, which led to the outbreak of the al-Aqsa Intifada, during which thousands of Palestinians were killed.
PCHR strongly condemns all disruptive measures taken by IOF in East Jerusalem, and reminds of the legal status of the OPT. PCHR calls upon the international community to immediately intervene to force Israel, the occupying power, to stop such measures. PCHR believes that the failure of the international community to take a decisive position towards Israel’s behavior as a State above law encourages it to perpetrate more violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law.
According to investigations conducted by PCHR, in the early morning of Sunday, 28 February 2010, IOF closed all roads leading to the al-Aqsa Mosque, and established barriers at the entrances of the old city of Jerusalem, denying Palestinian civilians access to it. A few hours later, at least 200 Israeli police and security officers entered the yard of the al-Aqsa Mosque and besieged dozens of Palestinian worshippers. They then closed the doors of the mosque with iron chains. At approximately 08:00, at least 500 Israeli settlers and their supporters, escorted by IOF, broke into the yard of the Mosque through al-Magharbah Gate, to conduct religious rituals for the Jewish holiday of Purim. Soon after, hundreds of Palestinian civilians gathered near Hatta Gate and attempted to reach the al-Aqsa Mosque in an attempt to force Israeli settlers to leave the yard of the al-Aqsa Mosque.
Immediately, IOF fired rubber-coated metal bullets, sound bombs and tear gas canisters at these civilians. As a result, six civilians were wounded by rubber-coated metal bullets. Israeli police officers also violently beat a number of Palestinian civilians near al-Majles Gate, and a woman, Fatema al-Barsi, sustained a fractured leg when Israeli police officers closed a gate on her legs when she attempted to reach the al-Aqsa Mosque. Additionally, IOF used force to disperse a peaceful demonstration organized by female school children. They also attacked and fired tear gas canisters at Palestinian civilians who gathered near al-Asbat Gate. At least 12 civilians suffered from tear gas inhalation.
According to eyewitnesses, IOF arrested five Palestinian boys in the old city and five boys in the Ras al-Amoud neighborhood. At noon, after the settlers had left the al-Aqsa Mosque complex, IOF maintained the closures of the entrances of the old city. They also prevented Palestinians below 50 years of age from reaching the mosque.
PCHR reiterates its condemnation of the storming of the al-Aqsa Mosque yard by Israeli settlers, escorted by IOF, and the use of excessive force against Palestinian civilians, and:
- Calls upon the High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention, jointly or individually, to fulfill their legal and moral obligations to ensure Israel’s respect for the Convention in the OPT according to Article 1 of the Convention, and believes that the international silence and inaction encourage Israel to act as a State above law and perpetrate more violations of international human rights law and humanitarian law, including efforts intended to establish a Jewish majority in occupied East Jerusalem.
- Calls upon the international community to immediately act to force the Israeli government to stop all settlement activities in the OPT, especially in East Jerusalem, and to dismantle existing settlements, the existence of which constitute war crimes under international humanitarian law.
- Calls upon the European Union and/or its Member States to activate Article 2 of the Euro-Israeli Association Agreement, which links continuous economic cooperation between the two parties to Israel’s respect for human rights, and to stop the trade of Israeli products, especially those produced in Israeli settlements in the OPT.