The last few weeks have witnessed even further escalation of conflict between Palestine and Israel when the Al-Aqsa mosque, which is considered by Muslims to be the third holiest site in Islam, came under attack by Israeli forces who believe the site, known as Temple Mount to the Jews, rightfully belongs to them and not Muslims. However, this is not the first time that there has been a clash between the two groups with regards to the holy site. The first time Israel effectively shut down the Al-Aqsa mosque since the occupation of East Jerusalem was in 1967 and the conflict that ensued resembles the one taking place at present. Reports state that the reason Israel took such measures is supposedly because a Palestinian man attempted to kill a far-right Israeli activist. However, given the sacred importance of the compound to both Muslims and Jews, it is most likely that the motive was not a political one; but rather it was fuelled by religious differences between the two groups.
The president of Palestine, Mahmoud Abbas responded to the closure of Al-Aqsa mosque with a warning to the Israelis; that any further attacks towards the mosque, and indeed the Palestinians, will result in a declaration of war against Israel. Abbas also cautioned them not to turn the several decade long Palestine-Israel conflict into an open-ended religious war that once begun, will never end. It seems that the attacks on Al-Aqsa and worshippers within the mosque is the last straw for Palestine, which would obviously be the case, given the seriousness of the matter. However, the Palestinians are approaching the matter as calmly as possible despite the aggression carried out towards them by Israel; a major indication that Palestine is not looking for war. Instead, all they want is peace between the two and for Israel to put an end to the expansion of its illegal settlements.
Irrespective of the religious importance of Al-Aqsa and the surrounding site to Muslims, Israel continues to terrorise the Palestinians. The Al-Aqsa mosque was stormed by Israeli police and settlers alike last month due to apparent clashes between Palestinians and Israelis, the latter then began shooting at Muslim worshippers, with at least 15 casualties. No action was taken following this particular incident, however, when a synagogue was attacked a while later with 5 casualties, the Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu vowed that harsh action would be taken against the two perpetrators of the attack. Following such incidents, the question arises in many peoples’ minds; if Israel is entitled to the right of freedom being an illegitimate state whose very existence is disputed by 35 counties as well as forming illegal settlements on Palestine’s land, then surely the Palestinians deserve the same freedom as well as recognition as a fully sovereign state, since their legitimacy is not disputed.