Explained: Why Palestinians, Jews are clashing over Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem

Explained: Why Palestinians, Jews are clashing over Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem Israeli police clash with Palestinian protesters inside Al Aqsa Mosque compound Source: Xinhua

New Delhi: Clashes around the Al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem continued on Tuesday (May 11) just before the Muslim festival of Eid-ul-Fitr. More than 200 Palestinians and dozens of Israeli policemen have been left injured during the violence. The violence was notched up  a level after rockets were fired from Gaza and West Bank which prompted Israel to launch air strikes.

The holy city of Jerusalem has been a flashpoint for the two sides as it is holy to the three religions of Muslims, Jews and Christians. The Al Aqsa Mosque which is called ‘Haram al-Sharif’ (“Noble Sanctuary”), is considered to be the third holiest shrine in Islam after Mecca and Medina. Meanwhile, Jews considered it as the Temple of Mount.

History of Al Aqsa Mosque

The Al Aqsa Mosque compound was first built by King Herod the Great although the current construction was made by the Umayyad dynasty in seventh century CE. The mosque was damaged in a earthquake and was again restored in the eight century CE. In 1816, the Governor of Sidon Eyalet province of the Ottoman empire Sulayman Pasha al-Adil restored the mosque.

The first modern renovation of the mosque took place in 1922 by Turkish architect Ahmet Kemalettin Bey.

History of Palestine

Palestine till the end of 19th century was under the Ottoman empire. However, after the Ottomans defeat in the First World War, the control of the state came under the British. In 1917, the British issued a public statement called the ‘Balfour Declaration’ which called for a home land for Jews in the erstwhile state of Palestine.

This leads to the first migration of Jews from Europe. Conflict brews between the Jews settlers and the Palestinians which lead to the first Arab-Israel War in 1948-49 which was won by Israel.

However the United Nations intervened and the land was divided into three parts. Jordan was given the West Bank area and control of East Jerusalem while Egypt was handed over the Gaza strip while Israel got a big chunk of Palestine.

War again broke out in 1967 in which Israel decimated the Arab coalition and gets complete control over East Jerusalem, Gazza and West Bank along with the strategically important Golan Heights from Syria.

The losses prompt Palestine to make the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO). The PLO was determined to fight for the independence of Palestine under the charismatic Yasser Arafat. However, many Palestinians viewed PLO as too lenient and a separate group called Hamas was formed in 1987 which resorted to violence in its aim to achieve a homeland for the Palestinians.

Israel did withdrew from the Gaza strip but continued to expand its influence in East Jerusalem, West Bank and Golan Heights and this current expansion of settlements is the cause of violence that has been ongoing in this century.

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