Dozens of Palestinians were hurt, two seriously, on Sunday, September 27, when crack Israeli policemen attacked worshipers who had just repulsed an attempt by Jewish extremists to hold Talmudic rituals at al-Haram al-Sharif.
"When the zealots were repulsed rather peacefully, the police became very outraged," Mahmoud Abu Atta, an eyewitness, told IslamOnline.net.
"As many as 70 policemen attacked us indiscriminately, young and old, with full force, using rubber-coated bullets, truncheons, tear gas and even poisonous gas."
An elderly man, identified as 73-year-old Muhammed Joulani, was hit with a rubber-coated bullet in the eye and his condition was described as "very serious."
A young Palestinian, 22, was badly hurt in the head.
Dozens others suffered from tear gas inhalation as well as brutal beating by police which, eyewitnesses said, employed "exaggerated force."
Eyewitnesses said tension began when dozens of Jewish religious zealots, disguised as tourists, stealthily entered Aqsa esplanade through its western gate, known as Bab el-Majles.
The intruders soon began, under police protection, performing Talmudic rites and making slogans calling for the destruction of the Islamic holy shrine.
Muslim guards as well as ordinary worshipers chased the Jewish zealots out.
"The police chased worshipers inside Aqsa Mosque, where the soldiers fired heavily into the holy place, causing many people to suffocate as a result of gas inhalation," said Atta.
"I saw the police gang up on young people, beating them mercilessly. The police were not out to maintain law and order. They just wanted to retaliate and punish us for repulsing the fanatical settlers."
Atta said the worshipers sought desperately to defend themselves against police brutality, using little stones, shoes and chairs.
Efforts by Jewish zealots to storm the Aqsa Mosque esplanade coincide with Yom Kippur holiday or Day of Atonement, the holiest day in the Jewish calendar.
It coincides with then opposition leader Ariel Sharon's provocative visit to al-Aqsa esplanade nine years ago which sparked off the al-Aqsa Intifada.
"Hence it is the responsibility of the entire Umma to protect and safeguard this holy place from Zionist plots and evil designs," Sheikh Sabri told IOL.
Muslim officials in Al-Quds (occupied East Jerusalem) had earlier called on Muslims throughout the city to go to al-Haram al-Sharif to protect it from Jewish fanatics trying to gain a foot-hold.
"We constantly urge Muslims here to maintain a permanent and uninterrupted presence at the Aqsa Mosque," Dr. Sheikh Ikrma Sabri, the imam of Aqsa Mosque, told IOL.
Hundreds of Jerusalemites and other Muslims from across the Green Line (Israel) arrived at the Mosque to repulse the zealots.
Confrontations broke out near Bab el-Majles when Israeli police prevented hundreds of Muslims, including leaders of the Islamic movement, from entering the Haram compound.
Many were detained and taken away to nearby police lockups.
Police also assaulted Abdul Azim Salhab, Head of the Supreme Muslim Council, as he was trying to enter al-Haram al-Sharif through the northern Gate, known as Bab el Asbat.
They also prevented a number of prominent Muslim religious and civic figures from entering the Aqsa esplanade, including Dr. Sheikh Sabri.
Hatem Abdul Qader, a member of the Palestinian Legislative Council, was also barred from entering the Haram.
"The preservation of Aqsa Mosque is not the sole responsibility of Muslims in Palestine, because the holy sanctuary belongs to the entire Muslim Umma," insisted Sheikh Sabri.
"Hence it is the responsibility of the entire Umma to protect and safeguard this holy place from Zionist plots and evil designs."
Al-Aqsa is the Muslims' first Qiblah [direction Muslims take during prayers] and it is the third holiest shrine after Al Ka`bah in Makkah and Prophet Muhammad's Mosque in Madinah, Saudi Arabia.
Its significance has been reinforced by the incident of Al Isra'a and Al Mi'raj - the night journey from Makkah to Al-Quds and the ascent to the Heavens by Prophet Muhammad (Peace and Blessings be Upon Him).
The Supreme Muslim Council of Al-Quds earlier issued a call on Muslims around the world urging them to stand firm in the face of Israel's criminal conspiracies against Aqsa Mosque.
Israeli religious leaders, including Knesset members, are making no secret of their schemes regarding Al-Aqsa.
The Temple Mount Faithful, an extremist fanatical group, is dedicated to the demolition of Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock.
The Temple Mount Institute, another extremist Jewish society, had prepared detailed plans for the rebuilding of the so-called Solomon Temple on the rubble of Al-Aqsa.
It has a large prototype of the temple, special clothes for its rabbis, special places for sacrificial offerings, incense chalice, copper vessels for meal offerings, silver vessel for wine libation and other offering implements.
Source: Khaled Amayreh, Islamonline.net