Red Crescent says at least 20 people wounded after Israeli forces stormed the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound following Friday prayers.
— Arwa Ibrahim (@arwaib) May 21, 2021
Jerusalem (CNN) Israeli security forces used stun grenades and rubber bullets against Palestinians outside the Al Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem, where thousands of worshipers had been attending Friday prayers, puncturing a half-day of calm brought on by a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas.
A CNN journalist at the mosque compound said dozens of Israeli officers hit journalists with batons and tried to point rifles at them, calling them “liars” when they showed them their press cards.
The officers moved on to the compound as thousands of worshipers chanted in solidarity with Gaza and with Palestinian residents of the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah, where some Palestinian families are facing eviction.
An Israeli police spokesperson said the officers were responding to a riot by hundreds of young Palestinians that included the throwing of stones at police forces.
CNN witnessed people, including screaming children, fleeing the scene to the sound of stun grenade blasts. The Palestinian Red Crescent said it treated 20 injuries following clashes between Palestinians and Israeli police at the compound. Two people were taken to hospital, while the rest were treated in the field, the aid group said.
The mosque and evictions have been flashpoints in the recent conflict between Israel and the Palestinian militant group Hamas, which according to the Hamas-run health ministry, left 243 Palestinians in Gaza dead, including 66 children, and 12 in Israel — including two children — who died from militant fire, according to the IDF and Israel’s emergency service.
One of the proximate causes of the recent conflict between Israel and Hamas was Israeli law enforcement and security forces raiding the al Aqsa mosque during prayers during Ramadan.
Weeks of sporadic violence between Israelis and Palestinians in Jerusalem intensified on Friday evening at a sacred religious site for Muslims and Jews, as the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan nears.
Israeli police in riot gear confronted crowds of Muslim worshippers at the Al-Aqsa Mosque, one of Islam’s holiest sites. Worshippers threw rocks and chairs at police, who fired rubber-coated bullets and stun grenades.
Israel asserted it had to conduct that raid on 7 May because Palestinians were using al Aqsa to plan terrorist attacks.
I have no idea whether this is true or not because, as was the case with the stated justification for reducing the building in Gaza that houses almost all the foreign news bureaus, Israel hasn’t actually shown any of their evidence, just asserted it. What I do know, however, is just how provocative and self defeating this type of action is. We spent years and years of training and education to get US military personnel, from senior leaders to squad leaders, and the Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Marines they command to understand and internalize that one of the most provocative, self defeating, and harmful in terms of creating negative second, third, and fourth order effects is to send US personnel into a mosque to conduct a raid. Same thing with conducting tactical operations against weddings and funerals too! Eventually, just to make sure that this would happen only if there was NO OTHER POSSIBLE TACTICAL OPTION AVAILABLE and IMMINENT HARM OR DEATH WAS GOING TO HAPPEN IF A RAID DIDN’T HAPPEN, the Army started sending people like me, including me, to Iraq and Afghanistan so that someone would have a seat at the table who could make sure to reinforce this when the decisions on what would happen and when were being planned, discussed, war-gamed, briefed for approval, and approved.
And, eventually, the training, education, and advising began to stick. I only recall two instances during my deployment where I had to raise this issue. The first was while doing the brigade commander’s review of a company commander’s plan for a tactical cordon and knock operation. It was being planned for early on a Friday and while there was no intention to enter the local mosque, I reemphasized that it was 1) going to be done on prayer day and 2) that meant we needed to be extra careful. My brigade commander looked up from his briefing book, said “good catch”, and provide clear guidance to the captain whose Soldiers would be conducted the raid to be extra careful, extra respectful, and to be done well before Friday prayers started and to stay well away from the local mosque. The second had to do with a wedding. I got an email from one of the targeteers in our Field Artillery battalion that they had solid information that one of the high value Mehdi Army targets would be attending his daughters wedding and what did I think? I hit reply; added the brigade commander, deputy brigade commander, XO, S3 (Officer in Charge of Operations), S2 (Officer in Charge of Intelligence), the brigade planner, the Command Sergeant Major, the battalion commander, the battalion XO, the battalion Command Sergeant Major (that’s the guy with the soccer and junk food story I’ve written about before), the battalion S3, the battalion S2, and the battalion planner and replied with:
DO NOT BLOW UP OR RAID THE WEDDING!!!! BLOWING UP OR RAIDING THE WEDDING IS BAD!!!! VERY BAD!!!! VERY, VERY BAD!!!!
Five minutes later the battalion commander called me up laughing and saying “he got the message”. We then worked through options that would not disrupt the wedding.
The only reason to conduct this type of operation, within 12 hours of a cease-fire, is if you’re trying to goad the Palestinians into breaking the cease-fire. If someone is planning something in the mosque, then you put your people into place, watch, wait, observe, and arrest them a suitable and respectful distance from the mosque after they leave. This is the whole point of doing network based intelligence for targeting and engagement. Shin Bet has been a master of this for decades in regards to the Palestinians. You don’t go right back and do the very thing that was one of the three or four most immediate proximate causes of the conflict you just ended with a cease-fire!