THE Palestinian Islamic resistance movement, Hamas, has warned Israeli authorities against violations at al-Aqsa Mosque in the occupied Old City of Jerusalem al-Quds, emphasising that any provocative move against the sacred site will infuriate Palestinians and subsequently ignite an armed struggle.
Hamas, in a statement released on Thursday, said the Israeli regime will pay a hefty price for its encroachment on the revered compound, and continuing violations at the mosque will be a cause for confrontation.
The Palestinian movement also rejected an Israeli court ruling to close the historic Golden Gate, known as Bab al-Rahma in Arabic and the only eastern gate to al-Aqsa Mosque, underlining that the Israeli regime will not be able to withstand the power of Palestinians as the people can make the impossible possible and abolish the occupation schemes targeting Jerusalem al-Quds.
Hamas termed the closure of Bab al-Rahma as a measure aimed at turning the mosque into a synagogue and the Judaisation of the city, noting that such a dangerous plan will fail to come to fruition.
The Palestinian movement then called on the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) and the Arab League to take action to stop the looming threat to the al-Aqsa Mosque, and to prevent the Israeli regime from achieving its objectives.
On Monday, the Islamic organisations in East Jerusalem al-Quds dismissed the Israeli court ruling to close the Bab al-Rahma prayer area inside the al-Aqsa Mosque compound, stressing that everything within the walled up site is purely Islamic and the Israeli regime has no rights or authority over it.
The organisations said in a statement that the Israeli police informed them of a decision taken on July 2 to close Bab al-Rahma prayer area for Muslim worshippers.
‘Bab al-Rahma prayer area is an integral part of the holy Al-Aqsa Mosque, which is for Muslims alone by divine right and not a subject for negotiations or concession of even one grain of its soil,’ said the organisations.
‘Al-Aqsa Mosque stands above any decision by courts regardless of their status or any political decision,’ they stressed, adding, ‘Muslims do not accept or recognise such illegal decisions, and will not abide by them.’
‘The Occupation’s (Israeli regime’s) decisions are contrary to freedom of worship and contrary to international laws and norms,’ said the Islamic organisations, holding Tel Aviv responsible for any harm to al-Aqsa Mosque.
The al-Aqsa Mosque compound sits just above the Western Wall plaza and houses both the Dome of the Rock and al-Aqsa mosque.
Palestinians have repeatedly warned of Israeli attempts to change the status quo of the al-Aqsa Mosque compound. Al-Aqsa Mosque is the third holiest site in Islam.
- Thousands of Israelis have joined a protest in occupied Jerusalem al-Quds, calling on Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to step down as he is on trial over corruption charges and amid anger over his cabinet’s mishandling of the economy and coronavirus outbreak.
The protesters gathered in front of Netanyahu’s official residence on Balfour Street on Tuesday evening, waving black flags, which they say symbolise the ‘death of democracy’ during the tenure of the chairman of the Likud political party as the regime’s leader.
Many held posters that said, ‘You are detached. We are fed up,’ or there is ‘no way’ a politician under indictment can be prime minister.
The demonstrators also blew horns, chanted slogans, and threw water bottles at the police.
Other placards read, ‘Netanyahu’s corruption makes us sick’ and ‘Netanyahu, resign.’
The anti-corruption activists at some point tried to storm the residence but were dragged away by police officers, resulting in scuffles.
As the protest ended, hundreds moved downtown, where they blocked the light rail system, chanting ‘shame, shame’ and ‘Bibi, go home’.
Police then used water cannons against the demonstrators and officers mounted on horses attempted to disperse the crowd, sending protesters scattering to the side of the streets before they regrouped.
An unnamed Israeli police spokesperson said one officer had been lightly wounded and 50 protesters arrested in the scuffles.
Demonstrator Elhanan Marks said that ‘every morning, I read the paper and it feels like a slap in the face. It’s time for a change, but still no one’s listening.’
Another protester, who declined to be named, said the incumbent Israeli administration’s poor response to the numerous crises in the occupied territories prompted her to attend the demonstration.
‘The most deadly virus is not Covid, but corruption,’ protester Laurent Cige, who came from Tel Aviv to take part, said.
At the same time as the demonstration in Jerusalem al-Quds, hundreds of demonstrators also gathered near Rothschild Boulevard in Tel Aviv to mark nine nears since the start of social justice protests in the summer of 2011.
Thousands of protesters have poured into the streets of Tel Aviv to express their anger over what they call an ‘inept’ official response to the economic hits they have taken during the coronavirus crisis.
The protest followed a mass demonstration on the weekend against Netanyahu’s failure to address economic woes brought on by the coronavirus pandemic.
‘We are in the beginning of a huge crisis, and it is clear that there is no leadership to expect solutions from,’ said Daphni Leef, organiser of the demonstration at Charles Clore Park in Tel Aviv.
‘The trust has been destroyed, despair is on the rise, but the people are waking up. It is also time to remember and inspire hope that only together will we create the strength to create solutions and change,’ she added.
Netanyahu — who has served as Israeli premier for more than a decade — has recently seen his popularity ratings plummet drastically as he is under fire from several directions.
The prime minister faces charges of fraud and breach of trust in three separate cases as well as bribery in one of them.
He is also criticised for deepening economic woes in the occupied territories, where the unemployment rate has surged over 20%.
Many Israelis also blame Netanyahu for a recent rise in cases of infection with the new coronavirus.
- An Israeli court on Sunday denied a petition backed by Amnesty International demanding that Israel’s defence ministry revoke the export license of cyberwarfare company NSO Group.
Judge Rachel Lavi-Barkai ruled that the petitioners failed to provide evidence to show that the Israeli company’s technology was used to spy on Amnesty personnel.
‘I’ve been convinced that the oversight procedures and the handling of requests for permits for defence export are meticulous,’ Lavi-Barkai said of NSO Group’s vetting process, according to Israeli daily Haaretz.
The court’s decision comes despite ‘mountains of evidence’ that surveillance tools made by NSO Group were used to target journalists and human rights defenders, said Danna Ingleton, a tech specialist for Amnesty.
Ingleton said the ‘disgraceful ruling is a cruel blow to people put at risk around the world by NSO Group selling its products to notorious human rights abusers.’
‘NSO Group continues to profit from human rights abuses with impunity,’ she added.
The legal action over NSO Group was pursued by some 30 petitioners in May 2019.
Amnesty International supported the effort after one of its staff was targeted in 2018 using Pegasus, a sophisticated cyber weapon produced by NSO Group.
Pegasus allows its remote operators to hijack smartphones undetected and extract massive amounts of private data.
NSO Group welcomed the court’s decision, saying ‘allegations did not have an evidentiary basis’.
NSO Group claims its products are used ‘exclusively by government intelligence and law enforcement agencies to fight crime and terror’.
Meanwhile, a top Catalan politician has been the latest target of NSO Group software.
The phone of Roger Torrent, the president of Catalonia’s regional parliament, was infected with Pegasus, according to a joint investigation by The Guardian and El País.
The messaging service WhatsApp alerted Torrent that his phone had been hacked with Pegasus by exploiting a critical vulnerability to install spyware on phones.
‘It seems wrong that politicians are being spied on in a democracy with the rule of law,’ Torrent said.
‘It also seems to me to be immoral for a huge amount of public money to be spent on buying software that can be used as a tool for the persecution of political dissidents.’
Two other pro-independence Catalan figures have been targeted as well.
Anna Gabriel, a former member of Catalonia’s parliament, was informed by Canadian cybersecurity organisation Citizen Lab that her phone was infiltrated.
Jordi Domingo was targeted by the software as well.
Although Domingo supports Catalan independence, he believes that he was targeted mistakenly and speculates that the real target was ‘a prominent lawyer who shares his name and helped to draft the Catalan constitution,’ according to The Guardian.
Given NSO Group’s insistence that it sells its software exclusively to governments, Torrent believes the Spanish government is the main suspect in the recent hackings.
The office of Spain’s prime minister said it had ‘no evidence’ that the three Catalan politicians ‘have been the targets of hacking via their mobiles’. It also insisted that ‘any operation involving a mobile phone is always conducted in accordance with the relevant judicial authorisation’.
WhatsApp in 2019 released an update to fix the vulnerability which was used to spy on 1,400 people.
‘Until now, it has not been suggested that any European country used NSO Group’s software in the 2019 attacks,’ according to The Guardian.
Facebook, which owns WhatsApp, has also sued the Israeli firm.
Despite the notorious role of NSO Group in violating the rights of journalists and human rights defenders around the world, several European countries, including The Netherlands and Sweden, have been cozying up to Israel’s tech industry, which is intricately tied to its cyberwarfare and espionage apparatuses.