Illustration by Shahd Nigim.

Apartheid: Israeli Forces Repeatedly Invade Al-Aqsa Mosque Throughout Ramadan

Palestinians were assaulted in occupied East Jerusalem during Ramadan as it coincided with Passover and Easter this year. Away from home, Palestinian students at NYUAD express their worries and need for international support.

May 9, 2022

Editor’s Note:We have used pseudonyms to refer to the students in the article in order to protect their identities.
On April 15, Israeli forces invaded the Al-Aqsa mosque compound in occupied East Jerusalem, assaulting peaceful Palestinian worshippers as well as journalists and activists. Soldiers fired rubber bullets, tear gas and live ammunition, injuring over 150 Palestinians and detaining at least 400 others.
The mosque, widely known as the third holiest site in Islam, had its windows shattered on the second Friday of Ramadan, a holy month of fasting and prayer for Muslims. Israeli raids continued throughout the month, peaking in intensity on Fridays when the mosque was busiest as it is designated for congregational worship.
Some believe the increased presence of Palestinians at this time is directly linked to the spike in attacks on the mosque. Palestinian student Sami, Class of 2023, remarked, “These large free numbers who congregate at Al Aqsa Mosque are a constant reminder for the occupation that they are unable to control Palestinians and the holy site as much as they can. This physical loss of control leads to inhuman countermeasures that escalate the violence.
The attack did not come as a surprise for most Palestinians. Sami also pointed out: “This is a yearly if not a daily occurrence. Palestinians are daily dehumanized by the occupation forces. It was only a matter of time that the occupation invaded Al Aqsa Mosque and interrupted Muslim religious rites like they do almost every Ramadan.”
This year, however, the difference was that Ramadan coincided with major Jewish and Christian holidays — namely Passover and Easter. Unfortunately, this led to an escalation of tensions in the Old City of Jerusalem.
On April 23, Israeli police forces prevented thousands of Christian worshippers from entering the Church of the Holy Sepulchre to celebrate the Holy Fire Ceremony.
Meanwhile, in yet another blatant display of apartheid, over 3500 Israeli settlers [invaded](( the courtyards of Al-Aqsa mosque in celebration of Passover under the protection of police forces. In fact, this was part of the reasons for the violence towards Palestinian worshippers, many of whom were assaulted, detained, or even locked in the prayer halls of the mosque to facilitate the entry of settlers .
For many Palestinians, the attacks on Al-Aqsa were reminiscent of last May, when a series of provocations carried out by Israel triggered a deadly war on Gaza. The settler-colonialist state had killed over 250 Palestinians, including 66 children, in the span of a month.
Some Palestinian NYU Abu Dhabi students worried another war would break out when Israel launched several airstrikes against Gaza recently after a rocket was fired from Gaza into the occupied territories in the name of protecting Al-Aqsa mosque.
Hala, Class of 2025 commented: “When it started, I wasn’t able to sleep for two days because I was scared it would get to the degree of last year’s [events], but alhamdullilah it didn’t.”
Fortunately, no escalations occurred this time after no casualties were reported on either side of the violence.
With many eager to support Palestine amidst this violence yet feeling a sense of helplessness, Palestinians were quick to call on their peers to raise awareness, emphasizing how much this makes a difference. Rasha, another Palestinian junior, stressed: “Every person who posts about the Palestinian cause especially in times like this, uses their voice to spread awareness and helps us take control of the narrative being shared online and across the media.”
Sami expressed a similar sentiment, “Amplifying the voices of the oppressed can raise them to the level of the institutions and international community just like what happened last May.”
Despite the damage and destruction that occurred during the war on Gaza last year, many Palestinians consider it a victory for the Palestinian cause, seeing the attention garnered in support of Gaza.
Walid Al-Eisawi is a contributing writer. Email him at
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