On this year’s International Quds [Jerusalem] Day, the occupied city is becoming less and less Palestinian and Arab because of the huge increase in the number of settlers and settlements. The city’s holy places — and its people — are being targeted. Many Palestinians have forgotten how the city actually looks, and know it only through television because Israel prevents them from going there.
Friday (Aug. 17) was International Quds Day, which every year falls on the last Friday of Ramadan. The scene at the Kalandia military checkpoint reflected how difficult it was for Palestinians to reach their presumptive state’s capital. And it seems it will never be their capital, according to Hussein Abu Rajeh, who was angry as he spoke with Al-Safir. The Kalandia checkpoint prevented him from reaching the city [of Jerusalem]. “I don’t know. I’ve been here since 4 in the morning trying to reach the city but as you can see they are preventing us. I don’t know if we have any remaining connection with the city. They have placed it as off-limits to us,” he said.
Yesterday, Israel prevented Palestinians under 40 from entering Jerusalem. Thousands of soldiers were deployed inside the city and at its entrances. Hundreds of roadblocks were set up to prevent Palestinians from praying at Al-Aqsa Mosque, which has also been targeted [by the Israelis]. The measures taken against Al-Aqsa and those who go there are increasing day by day. One of the most serious among them was the Israeli effort to schedule Al-Aqsa’s access times to match those of the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron.
A statement by the Al-Aqsa Foundation for Waqf and Heritage warned of the danger of these efforts, which have been undertaken by some Israeli leaders. The Foundation stated that “the Israeli occupation may try to implement this scenario in September to coincide with the Jewish New Year.”
Many Knesset members, as well as ministers and officials in the Netanyahu government, requested that during Jewish holidays only Jews be allowed in the Al-Aqsa Mosque by preventing the entry of Muslims during those holidays.
The Al-Aqsa Foundation said that those Israeli efforts “will have catastrophic consequences and effects on the fate of the Al-Aqsa Mosque, especially as the Israeli occupation is escalating its attacks and is directly targeting the mosque.”
According to the foundation, the mosque was subject to 2,000 intrusions this year by soldiers, settlers and religious Jews who tried to perform their rituals inside the mosque’s courtyard. The foundation pointed out that these intrusions are constantly on the rise as Israel tries to “give the mosque a Jewish character.”
Israel recently declared Al-Aqsa’s courtyard a “public garden,” making it accessible to any Jew or tourist without regard to the mosque’s sanctity.
In the same context, Israel continues its settlement activity in Jerusalem. The latest statistics show that the number of settlers there increased to about 300,000 while the number of Palestinians living within the city walls fell to about 200,000.
Expert and researcher on matters relating to Jerusalem, Famal Amr, told Al-Safir that this year’s International Quds Day would bear witness to the worst tragedy in the history of the city, which has lost its Arab identity. “They have devoured Jerusalem and turned it into a large settlement,” he said.
According to Amr, the city is being turned into a settlement by way of three axes. “The first axis is to surround the city with settlements from all sides. They have built three settlement belts south, east, and west [of the city] that have cut off Jerusalem from the rest of the West Bank and lowered the proportion of Arab land [inside Jerusalem],” he said.
The second axis is the Jewish settlements that were “planted” between Jerusalem’s Arab neighborhoods. “Settlements were established between Arab neighborhoods such as Ra’s al-Amoud and Jabal Mokbir. There are future settlement plans that include the demolition of the Silwan neighborhood,” he said.
The third axis, according to Amr, is the most dangerous because it overlooks the Al-Aqsa Mosque. He said: “This is the most dangerous settlement as it aims to hide the most important feature of the city, which is the Al-Aqsa Mosque. Settlements that directly overlook Al-Aqsa are being built. This is the case in the City of David and at Mughrabi Gate. There are also plans to construct 60 synagogues in the city to change its Muslim-Christian character.
“Jerusalem on International Quds Day is a disaster [because it is] constantly losing its inhabitants who are having their homes demolished and because of the high taxes that are being imposed on them, and because of the lack of jobs, and the spread of drug use... The Mecca conference of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation ended a few days ago with a recommendation that Jerusalem be given support.
“But all Arab and Islamic promises have remained ink on paper. The plans and projects intended to support the city and its people are not being implemented,” said Amr.
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