GENEVA (6 April 2023) – A UN expert today condemned the violent incursions by Israeli forces into the Haram Al-Sharif compound and the attacks on Palestinian worshippers at Al-Aqsa Mosque on Wednesday.
“As Palestinian Muslims gathered for Ramadan prayers exercising their right to worship in Al-Aqsa Mosque, Israeli authorities used blatantly excessive and unjustified force against them,” said Francesca Albanese, the UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.
Albanese said at least 31 Palestinians were reportedly injured inside and immediately outside the compound, while paramedics were allegedly prevented from providing medical treatment to the wounded. According to initial accounts, Israeli forces violently entered Al-Aqsa Mosque, used stun grenades and tear gas, fired sponge-tipped bullets, and indiscriminately beat Muslim worshippers – including elderly people and women – with batons and rifle butts. At least 450 Palestinian men were reportedly arrested, and some were kicked and slapped by escorting soldiers as they were led out of the Haram Al-Sharif compound in handcuffs.
The expert deplored the "reckless and unlawful" actions of Israeli forces, which reportedly allowed some 165 Jewish Israelis to enter the compound, in violation of the Status Quo Agreement, which Israel is bound to respect. “The well-known desire of Israeli settlers to either destroy the mosque or forcibly convert all or part of the compound into a synagogue, as happened to the Ibrahimi Mosque in Hebron, is a source of deep anxiety among Palestinians,” she said.
The Special Rapporteur noted that similar violence took place during the holy month of Ramadan in 2021 and 2022, adding to the daily violence under Israeli occupation.
“These actions have led to a spiralling situation of rocket fire into Israel and missiles launched into Gaza, endangering civilians on both sides of the Green Line. I am alarmed by the escalation of violence, particularly because of the further devastation it will bring to Palestinians in Gaza, who have been trapped by an inescapable siege since 2007,” Albanese said.
“Over the years, Israel has not ceased its violent attacks against Palestinian worshippers at Al-Aqsa Mosque in violation of international law,” the expert said, calling on the international community to step up efforts to hold the occupying power accountable for its unacceptable behaviour in the occupied territory before the situation spirals further out of control.
“It is imperative that all parties comply with international law, without exception,” she said. “Failure to do so fuels and perpetuates the culture of injustice and impunity.”
The Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.
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