By Wafa Aludaini
A hot-button political issue has been simmering throughout the occupied Palestinian territories since the commencement of the month of Ramadan, heating up as Israeli occupation authorities took drastic measures to restrict Palestinians’ access into Al-Aqsa Mosque during Ramadan. The catalyst for tension comes from extremist Israeli settlers calling to storm Al-Aqsa to slaughter goats and lambs for ritual offerings, stirring a new provocation amongst Palestinians. In spite of international calls to tamp down the situation in occupied Jerusalem, Israeli occupation forces continue to attempt to impose sovereignty over Al-Aqsa Mosque, forfending Palestinian worshippers and making cover for Israeli settlers to invade the mosque’s complex instead.
Advertisements were posted across various social media platforms by Jewish Temple Mount groups calling on extremist Israeli settlers to take individual efforts to offer “the Passover sacrifice” inside Al-Aqsa on the evening of 15 April, coinciding with the Easter holiday, promising financial incentives of up to ten thousand shekels – about $3,100 – for anyone who succeed. The advertisements list various levels of reward for those who attempt the undertaking: Getting caught with a baby lamb or goat receives an award of 800 shekels ($250), those who get caught before attempting can win up to 400 shekels ($150), while the big prize is promised to any who get arrested in the attempt. A statement released by Israeli settler group Return to the Mountain affirms that these actions are the “Israeli response” to “terror.”
Despite the restrictive Israeli measures against Palestinians in occupied Jerusalem, including pressure that has led the Jerusalem Islamic Waqf to prevent Itikaf from being observed in Al-Aqsa, Palestinians are calling for a mass gathering at Al-Aqsa mosque to defend the mosque from Judaization plans and further violations in the wake of this provocative announcement.
On Monday, extremist Temple groups carried out a simulation of the sacrificial offering in the Umayyad palaces directly adjacent to the southern wall of Al-Aqsa Mosque, but their leadership has determined that further action is necessary, encouraging their members to attempt to individually access Al-Aqsa to perform the ritual slaughter. These groups have previously been engaged in a long-standing court process to attempt to secure access to Al-Aqsa, and implemented the practical revival of ritual sacrifice in several locations surrounding Al-Aqsa since 2014.
In statements, Return to the Mountain confirmed that “the time has come to change the rules of the game,” adding that “neither Hamas nor Jordan decide what happens [in Al-Aqsa], we are the ones who will decide the fate of the Passover sacrifice,” emphasizing that on this coming Friday, on the eve of Passover and Easter, their followers “will come to the Temple Mount from all parts of the country to present the Passover sacrifice on time, and to renew Jewish worship [at Al-Aqsa] after 2,000 years of its extinction.”
On Tuesday, 12 April, Palestinian resistance factions in Gaza denounced the Israeli occupation and its settlers carrying out the storming, desecration and slaughter their offerings inside Al-Aqsa Mosque on Easter. They stressed in a statement that the occupation authorities bear full responsibility for the repercussions of this dangerous step towards judaization.
In a statement, the Palestinian resistance stressed that the cold-blooded executions committed by the occupation will be confronted by escalating resistance to the occupier in all fields, explaining that the battle with the occupation is open and comprehensive across all squares of Palestine.
Kamal Al-Khatib, the Chairman of the Freedom Committee, part of the High Follow-up Committee for Palestinians in Israel, said that the Palestinian people know their role and mission well in defending their sanctities, and will not fail Al-Aqsa Mosque nor abandon it.
Al-Khatib described the settlers’ explicit calls to storm Al-Aqsa during the month of Ramadan and slaughter “offerings” on Easter as “extremely dangerous.”
During the past week, 571 settlers stormed Al-Aqsa Mosque, including dozens of senior rabbis from settlements and religious institutes, where they held lectures and discussions “in preparation” for the Jewish holiday Passover, which falls on 15-20 Ramadan.
The Temple Mount groups believe that the revival of the ritual of the sacrifice constitutes a moral revival of the Jewish Temple by dealing with Al-Aqsa as a temple, even if its buildings and landmarks are still Islamic.