What’s behind 'Israel’s' Targeting of al-Aqsa Guards?
The direct reason for targeting al-Aqsa guards is the attempt by the occupation to secure a “calm” environment for settlers who break into al-Aqsa without being watched by the mosque's guards.
On 1/3/2022, Israeli occupation forces attacked al-Aqsa guards at the Council Gate (Bab al-Majlis), one of the Mosque’s gates, and arrested the guard Sami Abu Qweider. Abu Qweider was released on the same day but a decision to ban him from al-Aqsa for a week is subject to possible renewal.
Just a day earlier, on 28/2/2022, an Israeli court decided to ban Al-Aqsa guard Louay Abu Al-Saad from the Mosque for six months. Israeli forces kidnapped Abu Al-Saad from the Dome of the Rock in al-Aqsa in December 2021.
The above is only an example of ongoing Israeli targeting of al-Aqsa guards, a policy on rise especially after the Tribes Gate Uprising (Habbat Bab Al-Asbat) in 2017 when the occupation authorities failed in their attempts to install magnetometers at al-Aqsa gates following the operation carried out by three Palestinians from the 1948 occupied territories on 14/7/2017 and leading to the killing of two Israeli soldiers.
In recent years, "Israel" resorted to several ways to target al-Aqsa guards, including excluding them from the Mosque, preventing them from performing their work, obligating them to keep a certain distance from the settlers during the incursions, and banning them from al-Aqsa.
Just last year, the occupation authorities arrested and banned around 40 guards from entering the Mosque. In February 2021, "Israel" demolished a two-story building where the family of al-Aqsa guard Fadi Alayan lived. Alayan has been arrested and banned from entering the Mosque several times and Israeli officials repeatedly called him threatening him with demolishing his home should he not quit his work in al-Aqsa.
Endowments Officials Warn against the Israeli Escalation
In media declarations in January 2022, Director of al-Aqsa Mosque Sheikh Omar Kiswani said that "Israel" has prevented 60 guards who were appointed in November 2021 from assuming their jobs and even threatened to arrest them. He also reiterated that the occupation authorities have been preventing the Islamic Endowments Department from increasing the number of al-Aqsa guards since 2017.
Al-Kiswani asserted that the Endowments department has 250 guards currently serving over four shifts day and night, some of whom are over 60 and others are close to retirement age. However, the Department has been unable to hire new guards due to Israeli obstruction.
Not far from these declarations, the Head of Supreme Islamic Council in al-Quds Sheikh Ikrima Sabri revealed that the Israeli occupation authorities was preventing guards from assuming their job at al-Aqsa except after receiving security clearance from the Israeli intelligence. Sabri said that Israeli police demanded the Endowments Department to provide the file of every candidate it sought to hire as a guard before he can assume his job, which the Department rejected.
Why does "Israel" Target al-Aqsa Guards?
The direct reason for targeting al-Aqsa guards is the attempt by the occupation to secure a “calm” environment for settlers who break into al-Aqsa without being watched by the guards who are tasked, among other things, with monitoring settlers during their raids of al-Aqsa and documenting their behavior.
This targeting comes amidst the rise of the so-called Temple movements and their increasing demands for the occupation government to allow further raids of al-Aqsa in addition to imposing “freedom of worship” for Jews in the Mosque, with these demands being supported by Knesset members and a number of ministers in the consecutive Israeli government.
In this sense, this targeting of the guards complements "Israel’s" policy of targeting the human shield defending and protecting al-Aqsa which was exacerbated in 2015 with targeting Murabitin and Murabitat. To this day, the occupation authorities ban Gazans from visiting the Mosque, impose restrictions on Palestinians from the West Bank to reach al-Quds, and infringe on the movement of Palestinians from al-Quds and 1948 territories to make it difficult for them to reach al-Aqsa while recalling them for interrogation and banning some of them from the Mosque through orders which are repeatedly renewed.
On a deeper level, targeting the guards can be understood as a part of Israeli relentless attempts to do away with the historic status quo in al-Aqsa. It is one of "Israel's" ways to marginalize the Islamic Endowments, infringe on its role and terminate it, and assume full control over the Mosque.
Indeed, in the past few years, the occupation authorities escalated their targeting of the Islamic Endowments, including through the blatant interference in the work of the Endowments Department, preventing it from carrying out the restoration work the Mosque needs and marginalizing its employees.
These Israeli attempts clearly seek to perpetuate the erosion of Jordanian guardianship over al-Aqsa, end its role in al-Quds and its holy sites, which ultimately serves to consolidate "Israel's" claims to full sovereignty over the Mosque and over al-Quds as a whole.
What Needs to be Done?
An examination of the scene in al-Aqsa with all Israeli aggression on the Mosque leaves no room for doubt regarding "Israel's" policies and goals. While "Israel" works on multiple fronts to undermine the belts of defense and drain Muslim presence, it is important to foil its endeavors and thwart all attempts to Judaize al-Aqsa Mosque.
With al-Aqsa guards being a part of its employees, Jordan is directly concerned with the Israeli aggression targeting them. The Jordanian decision to increase the salaries of the guards is important to support their resilience, yet there is a need to put pressure on "Israel" to terminate its aggression, and this cannot be attained through the continued diplomatic relations or the deepening of normalization between the two sides, including through gas and water agreements with the occupation.
With the deterioration of the political prospects amidst the rising tide of Arab normalization with "Israel", al-Aqsa guards need public support and embrace with strong popular presence in the Mosque, especially from al-Quds the 1948 occupied territories, so that they would not be an easy target for the occupation.