Gaza City – Hundreds of Palestinians took to the streets to protest Israeli forces breaking into the Al-Aqsa Mosque on Friday and in a show of support for people living in the occupied West Bank.
Protesters chanted slogans calling for Arab and international support for Al-Aqsa Mosque worshippers and those in the occupied territories facing intensified Israeli violence against Palestinians.
Earlier this week, Palestinian factions in Gaza met senior Hamas official Yahya Sinwar to discuss the accelerating developments in the occupied West Bank, where they affirmed their “unified position” against deadly Israeli raids.
Thousands gathered at the holy site for weekly Friday prayers during the holy month of Ramadan when clashes broke out leaving more than 150 Palestinians wounded.
In a speech at the Gaza demonstration, Khaled al-Batsh, a senior member of the Islamic Jihad movement, denounced Israeli attacks against worshippers at Al-Aqsa Mosque on Friday morning.
“Today we gather in Gaza to show our support to people in Jerusalem and the West Bank. We support our popular resistance and salute the souls of our martyrs,” he said.
Al-Batsh stressed Palestinian factions “won’t stay silent” if Israeli violations continue at the Al-Aqsa compound.
“We will not tolerate the Israeli provocation in the Al-Aqsa Mosque and we will not accept its continuation,” he said.
Omer Barlev, Israel’s public security minister, said Israel had “no interest” in violence at the Al-Aqsa compound. He added Israeli forces were forced to confront “violent elements” who attacked them.
‘Pay the price’
Al-Batsh said Palestinian armed groups hold “the Israeli enemy” responsible for “the repercussions of these attacks”. Israel “will pay the price for these crimes”, he added.
“The resistance has taken upon itself the responsibility to protect our people and its sanctities, and will not stand idly in the face of these provocations,” he said.
Al-Batsh condemned Israeli attempts to impose a Jewish identity on occupied East Jerusalem.
The recent violence came as far-right Jewish groups called for raids of the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound during the Jewish Passover holiday, and the offering of animal sacrifices in its courtyard, which has not occurred since ancient times.
Ayman al-Athamneh, 36, from Beit Hanoun, said he joined the protest in northern Gaza to show his strong rejection of what is happening at Al-Aqsa Mosque in occupied East Jerusalem and the West Bank.
“We assure all our people in the West Bank that the masses of Gaza are wholeheartedly with you and with the resistance. We in Gaza are ready for any sacrifices for the sake of Al-Aqsa Mosque,” he said.
Al-Aqsa ‘a red line’
Ashraf Awad, 43, expressed his anger at what happened on Friday morning at Al-Aqsa.
“Where are the Arab and Islamic countries of what is happening? Every day there are martyrs, people killed, wounded and there are raids and provocations,” he told Al Jazeera.
“What we saw today is very provocative and painful. The beating of women, girls and worshippers cannot be tolerated. We demand the resistance to respond. Israel knows nothing but the language of blood.”
Umm Raed Hajj Salem, 57, said she feels like there is “a fire burning in her chest from anger” after the Israeli raids.
“I wish the crossings were open and we could go from Gaza to Al-Aqsa Mosque to defend it,” she said angrily.
“Al-Aqsa is a red line – the land of an Islamic endowment – and any violation and aggression against it is an attack on all Muslims as a whole. We sacrifice our souls, our blood, and our children for the Al-Aqsa Mosque. We hope that God will strengthen us and liberate it soon.”
The holy site, sacred to Muslims and Jews, has repeatedly led to confrontations between Palestinians and Israelis. Last year violence there ignited an 11-day Israeli war on Gaza.