Monday 26 October 2009


By Amr Taha

October 9, 2009
The Israeli siege against Al-Aqsa and against the defenders of Al-Aqsa trapped inside continues. Jewish extremist groups and the Israeli police are trying to storm and desecrate the sacred Al-Aqsa on a daily basis. The Israeli occupation authority has mobilized thousands of settlers and extremist Jews during Sukkot to perform their rituals inside the holy Al-Aqsa itself. Those inside Al-Aqsa Mosque are determined to prevent any desecration of Al-Aqsa, and curb any opportunity for Jews to storm it.

“The Israeli army will close off the West Bank from Saturday on the eve of Yom Kippur, the holiest day in the Jewish calendar which starts at sunset on Sunday, a military spokesman said.”

The unprovoked intrusion by Jewish fanatics into the Noble Sanctuary of Jerusalem on Sunday 27 September, should alarm every Muslim under the sun.

That was not, as Israeli propaganda insists, an innocent visit by Jewish tourists to Islam’s third holiest sanctuary. It was a planned and calculated act of provocation against Muslims all over the world ~ one that puts Palestinians in the crosshairs to protect this sacred site.

As to the Palestinians, they are the first line of defence against Zionist aggression in Jerusalem as well as throughout occupied Palestine. Respect for religion is not and has never been a Zionist character. It would be naive to expect Israel to preserve the safety and sanctity of such a site.

This is why, Palestinians must always maintain a permanent and uninterrupted presence at the Haram al Sharif of Jerusalem. This peaceful presence is very important; it sends an unmistakable message to the Zionists that Muslims, especially in Palestine, would go to any extent to protect their holy places in al-Quds al Sharif.

Jewish fanatics don’t come to the Aqsa esplanade to visit; they come to antagonize and gain a foot-hold or perhaps hatch a conspiracy the Mosque. Their ultimate goal is to carry out acts of terror and vandalism against Islamic holy places.

In the past, distant and near, Jewish terrorists, often disguised as tourists, carried out acts of murder against Muslim worshipers.

At one time, Chief Rabbi Shlomo Goren tried to convince the conquering army to blow up the Aqsa Mosque “once and for all.”

Besieged between the hammer of the Israeli blockade, and the anvil of official Muslim silence, Al-Aqsa mosque is under an imminent threat of being stormed by extremist Jewish settlers. Since the very time extremist Jewish settlers have announced their intentions to storm Al-Aqsa during Sukkot, a seven-day Jewish festival that has started since October 4, Palestinians rushed to defend Al-Aqsa. has exclusively interviewed Sheikh Ali Abu-Sheikha, one of the 200 Palestinians besieged inside Al-Aqsa Mosque and threatened to be detained at any time by the Israeli troops surrounding the Mosque. Sheikh Ali Abu-Sheikha, the Islamic Movement's Counselor for Al-Aquds Affairs, spoke over the phone to IOL Politics in Depth. (IOL): What is the situation right now inside Al-Aqsa mosque and how do you face the Israeli siege?

Sheikh Ali: The situation is so intense, and will continue to be so as long as the occupation continues. As for the siege imposed against us, we are facing the shortage of food by praying all the time.

The Israeli forces ban the entry of food into Al-Aqsa. Our families in Al-Quds' neighborhoods, close to Al-Aqsa, and people inside Mandate Palestine try to deliver food to us, but are prevented.

The Israeli occupation forces confiscate and ban these meals from entering Al-Aqsa. Nevertheless, we have our special ways to enable us, by a way or another, to take a little of a little of food.

IOL: How far do you suffer from such shortage of food and water, and how far is this affecting you?

Sheikh Ali: Never. No one is suffering from such shortage of food and water. We have strong will and high morale. We are, and will, not be defeated anyway despite the suffocating blockade.

We are steadfastly united inside one of the most important Muslim places, the holy Al-Aqsa. This place gives us courage, high morale, and persistence vis a vis the shortage of food and water.

If Israel continues the blockade, we are unwaveringly going to defend Al-Aqsa whatever consequences will be.

IOL: How many people are inside the Al-Aqsa Mosque with you now?

Sheikh Ali: They are probably 200 or a little more individual inside the mosque. During Zhuhr and Maghrib Prayers, many Palestinians above 50 years old enter Al-Aqsa to pray.

In such circumstances of the Israeli blockade, the Israeli police allow Palestinians above 50 years old the to enter into Al-Aqsa for short time of prayer given that they must first give their ID cards to the occupation forces.

If any of those allowed to temporarily pray inside Al-Aqsa stay a little bit late, they have to go to the headquarters of the Israeli Intelligence Agency to receive their IDs.

IOL: What is your daily program inside Al-Aqsa under this tight siege?

Sheikh Ali: After`Isha’ Prayer, we tightly close all doors inside Al-Aqsa and turn off all lights. We usually do not move inside Al-Aqsa, even we are unable to go to bathrooms to do ablution, because any one who exits the mosque will be arrested.

We pray away from the mosque's windows because the Israeli police stand by the mosque's windows trying to track us. During Fajr Prayer, we meet the people allowed to enter the mosque.

After Fajr Prayer till sunset, we organize sit-ins by Al-Maghriba Gate through which we prevent settlers from storming Al-Aqsa.

During sunset, we pray and break our fast. Then, we pray `Isha’.

Most of our time is dedicated to sit-ins and resistance. We are awake all the time because it is possible that any time Israel could storm the mosque. I am talking to you now and the Israel police is standing by the mosque's windows.

IOL: Have any Israeli Jewish groups entered Al-Aqsa Mosque during these days?

Sheikh Ali: The Israeli occupation authority has mobilized thousands of settlers and extremist Jews during Sukkot to perform their rituals inside the holy Al-Aqsa itself. Backed and protected by the Israeli police, settlers have come up with drums and trumpets to perform their rituals inside Al-Aqsa.

Brazenly challenging the Muslim and Arab world, Jews have announced their intention to storm Al-Aqsa.

The Israeli police have prevented children, youth, and those under 50 from entering the Al-Aqsa's campus.

Furthermore, it has blockaded Al-Aqsa mosque by closing all gates leading to it after besieging Al-Quds city and dividing it into sections for easier control.

The Israeli police have installed barriers on roads leading to Al-Aqsa. This is all aimed at facilitating the situation for Jews to storm the mosque.

However, thanks to Almighty Allah, there have been people inside Al-Aqsa who decided to stay inside the mosque since the moment Israel has put physical barriers on the roads to it.

Until this moment, we have succeeded in warding off any Israeli attempts to invade the Mosque.

IOL: Many Palestinians from all over Palestine tried to reach you inside Al-Aqsa. Have they managed to do so?

Sheikh Ali: The Israeli occupation forces have put several physical barriers on the road to Al-Aqsa and inside many Palestinian cities in Muthaleth, Jalil, and Al-Ramelah alleys. These barriers are 200km away from Al-Aqsa, so no car can cross them.

Since the first day, after the Israeli occupation forces prevented Palestinian convoys from entering Al-Aqsa, so many of them insisted on walking the 150km to Al-Aqsa. Yet, Israelis prevented them from walking to the mosque.

Therefore, Palestinians decided to pray Al-Fajr 150km away from Al-Aqsa.

This is, perhaps, one of my all-time favourite photos of a Muslim woman. Secure in her fecund beauty, she insolently makes the peace sign to a row of armed IDF. Let's talk about chutzpah!

Many Palestinians toiled to reach Al-Aqsa by circumventing the Israeli blockade. However, after they succeeded in entering Al-Quds, they were unable to reach Al-Aqsa because of the tight blockade against Al-Aqsa.

IOL: How ready are you in case Israeli forces and Jewish settlers storm Al-Aqsa?

Sheikh Ali: There is an evil Israeli plan to storm Al-Aqsa. On October 6, the Israeli Occupation forces tried to arrest four of us, and tried to invade the mosque, but our will and solidarity prevented them from carrying out their plans to invade Al-Aqsa.

The attempt to arrest four of us was curbed after a brief clash against the Israeli forces, as prayers were able to free the four.

IOL: Do you think Israelis are trying now to divide Al-Aqsa, as they did before with the Al-Haram Al-Ibrahimi (Abraham's Mosque)?

Sheikh Ali: All Israeli provocations indicate a plan to accelerate the building of the so-called Jewish Temple [Temple Mount] on the ruins of Al-Aqsa. According to the declaration of Israel's Minister of Interior, there is a suggestion to divide Al-Aqsa between Muslims and Jews. Consequently, Israel tries to carry out such plan during these days.

IOL: What are the counter plans of the Islamic Movement inside Mandate Palestine to face such Israeli agenda, especially since such provocations may probably continue for years?

Sheikh Ali: On the eve of Yom Kippur, a Jewish feast, extremist Jews had planned to invade Al-Aqsa. However, Palestinians averted such an attempt. There were fierce clashes between the Israeli police and settlers and the Palestinians that continued for about two successive days.

Now, Jews have tried to invade Al-Aqsa as they commemorate Sukkot, yet thanks to Almighty Allah, we were able to ward off any offenses against holy Al-Aqsa. We are inside Al-Aqsa to defend it, even it takes longer time.

IOL: How far do tunnels dug by Israelis around and under Al-Aqsa affect its foundation?

Sheikh Ali: Digging tunnels and excavation schemes incessantly continue until now. We are now inundated with defending Al-Aqsa from any attack while, at the same time, there are continuing projects of digging more tunnels under Al-Aqsa.

There are tunnels in As-Selwan alley, Wadi Helwa, under the old city, and even under Al-Aqsa mosque itself.

This means houses around Al-Aqsa are on the verge of collapse, and most of Al-Aqsa's area is without foundations. Not to mention that many synagogues are built under Al-Aqsa, so also in Ein Helwa and As-Selwan.

Recently, Netanyahu, Israel's prime minister, has planned to open the tunnel starting from As-Selwan alley directly into Al-Aqsa mosque.

Al-Aqsa Foundation has discovered such a tunnel, which is 600 meters long and 2 meters wide.
Confrontation is not a stranger at Al_Agsa. With the Dome of The Rock Mosque in the background, Palestinians pray on the street in front of Israeli police forces, not seen, after they were denied entry to the Al Aqsa Mosque for security reasons on Friday, Jan. 16, 2009. The U.N. chief urged Israel declare a unilateral cease-fire in Gaza, but Israel refused. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)

IOL: What you would like to say to Muslims?

Sheikh Ali: We urge Muslims to unite for defending Al-Aqsa, which is under very critical situation. Al-Aqsa does not only belong to Palestinians. It belongs to every Muslim.

Amr Taha is a staff writer for the Politics in Depth section of A graduate of the American University in Cairo, he holds a BA in political science with a specialization in international law and international relations. Contact him at politics.indepth [at] iolteam [dot] com

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