On Wednesday, April 6, 2022, the Israeli police raided the Aqsa Mosque compound in the Old City of Jerusalem. This was followed by barricading by Palestinians inside the mosque and led to a brief exchange of rocket fire from Gaza and retaliatory Israeli airstrikes. The incident resulted in the injuries of at least 37 Palestinians and two Israeli officers and the arrests of hundreds of Palestinians. This article discusses the details of the event, tensions surrounding the site, and reactions from both Israeli and Palestinian leaders.
The Aqsa Mosque compound is a holy site in Jerusalem known to Jews as the Temple Mount. It is the location of two ancient Jewish temples and is considered the most sacred site in Judaism. After the temples were destroyed, Muslims built a mosque complex there. They believe it is the place from which the Prophet Muhammad ascended to heaven, making it the third holiest site in Islam. The site is a frequent flashpoint for violence because it is central to both Israeli and Palestinian national narratives.
On the morning of April 6, 2022, the Israeli police forced their way into one of the two main prayer halls of a mosque at the Aqsa Mosque compound. The police said that the Palestinians had locked the doors of the prayer hall, the Qibli Mosque, from the inside and barricaded the entrances. Video circulated by Palestinian news outlets showed police beating people inside the prayer hall with batons, and some Palestinians setting off fireworks.
Tensions and Warning
The overlap of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan and the Jewish holiday of Passover, which began on Wednesday evening, led to concerns about possible clashes at the site. Officials and diplomats had been warning in recent days as more worshipers headed to the site. On the eve of Passover, greater numbers of Jews typically visit the site as a form of pilgrimage. To Palestinians, the presence of Jewish worshipers is considered provocative, partly because many are hard-line activists who hope to build a new temple on the site.
Staying overnight at the mosque is banned by the Israeli police except on special occasions such as the end of Ramadan. In recent weeks, the police had not stringently upheld that ban. However, a police spokeswoman said that officers decided to enforce it on April 6 because they feared that if Palestinians were allowed to stay inside the mosque, they would confront crowds of Jews who were expected to visit the site a few hours later.
The police said they had raided the mosque early on April 6 after prolonged attempts to persuade the worshipers to leave. They said Palestinians also threw stones at officers, and Palestinian news outlets said the police had fired tear gas and sponge-tipped bullets and beaten those inside the mosque.
Armed groups in Gaza launched at least nine rockets toward Israel, five of which were intercepted by the country’s air defense system, roughly two hours after the raid. The others landed in open fields, according to the Israeli military. Hours later, Israeli fighter jets carried out a number of airstrikes on military sites in Gaza, according to the Palestinian news media and the Israeli military. Hamas released a statement condemning the Israeli raid and calling for Palestinians to demonstrate in response, but it stopped short of calling for a military confrontation.
The Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem is a volatile site with a history of violence, and tensions surrounding it have again come to a head. The incident on April 6 resulted in the injuries of Palestinians and Israeli officers, as well as the arrests of hundreds of Palestinians. While rocket fire and airstrikes were contained to a few exchanges, the situation remains volatile. Both sides have telegraphed that they are not seeking a military escalation. However, the raid and subsequent events highlight