Israeli Forces Kill Palestinian Youth in West Bank Town of Azzoun

Israeli soldiers take positions during clashes with Palestinians in the village of Azzoun on 30 April 2022 (AFP/File photo)

Israeli-Palestinian Conflict Escalates In The Holy Month

JERUSALEM – Ahed Salim, a 20-year-old Palestinian youth, was shot and killed by Israeli forces during an incursion into the northern West Bank town of Azzoun, according to a statement by the Palestinian health ministry. The ministry did not provide further details on the incident that took place just east of Qalqilya. This brings the total number of Palestinians killed by Israeli forces since the start of 2023 to at least 93, making it the deadliest start to a year since 2000. In the same period, Palestinians have killed 16 Israelis.

The shooting came a day after two Israeli women were killed and another critically wounded in a shooting in the occupied West Bank’s Jordan Valley. Following the shooting, Israel Police Commissioner Kobi Shabtai called on licensed gun owners to start carrying their weapons.

In addition, Israeli forces have bombarded both Gaza and Lebanon in recent days, exchanging rocket fire from Gaza. Late Saturday, three rockets were fired at Israel from Syria.

Violence in the West Bank and Assaults on Al-Aqsa Mosque during Ramadan

Meanwhile, Israeli forces have violently assaulted and arrested worshippers at Al-Aqsa Mosque in occupied East Jerusalem over two successive nights this week, sparking global condemnation. The assaults took place while Palestinians were performing nightly Ramadan Taraweeh prayers. Israeli troops fired rubber-coated bullets, tear gas, and stun grenades to clear the mosque, before chasing and beating people with batons.

The Israeli authorities justified the violent actions at Islam’s third holiest site during the holiest month in the Muslim faith as a crackdown on Ramadan worship. Following the Taraweeh night prayers on Tuesday, dozens of worshippers stayed in Al-Aqsa to practice Itikaf, a non-mandatory religious act common during Ramadan and involve staying inside mosques overnight to pray, reflect, and recite the Quran. However, Israeli authorities do not allow worshippers to practice Itikaf outside of the last ten days of Ramadan – a ban Palestinians refuse to comply with.

Israeli police inside Al-Aqsa Mosque complex in occupied East Jerusalem, on 5 April 2023 (AFP)
Israeli police inside Al-Aqsa Mosque complex in occupied East Jerusalem, on 5 April 2023 (AFP)

Israel’s control of occupied East Jerusalem, including the Old City, violates several principles of international law which stipulates that an occupying power has no sovereignty in the territory it occupies and cannot make any permanent changes there. Palestinians fear that restrictions on when they can enter and the opening of the site to settlers is laying the groundwork for the mosque to be divided between Muslims and Jews, similar to how the Ibrahimi Mosque in Hebron was divided in the 1990s.

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Palestinians fear that the Israeli crackdowns are a premeditated move by the Israeli government to empty them from al-Aqsa Mosque and Jerusalem. The government is said to want only Jews in the city and not Palestinians and Muslims. Violent Israeli assaults on Palestinian worshippers during the month of Ramadan have become commonplace. Last year, over 170 were wounded, and more than 300 were arrested during Israeli raids on the mosque across the holy month.

This latest escalation in violence has raised concerns about the ongoing conflict between Israel and Palestine, and the lack of progress towards a peaceful resolution. The international community has called for restraint and dialogue to prevent further escalation and loss of life. However, with tensions remaining high, there are fears that the violence will continue. – Middle East Eye