Israeli police & Jewish settlers have attacked & provoked Palestinian worshippers at Jerusalem's Al-Aqsa Mosque for the third day in a row. Scores of Palestinians have been injured & the interior of the mosque has become severely damaged following Israeli police's use of grenades, live & rubber bullets, & tear gas.
Jewish settlers have called for storming the religious site in recent days, in the wake of their celebration of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year.
Whereas in previous years, Israeli police would prevent Jewish settlers from accessing the Al-Aqsa Mosque area, in recent days Israeli forces have accompanied the settlers during their raids into the area & attacks on Palestinian worshippers.
These attacks come only one week after Israel designated the Mourabitoun & Mourabitat, which are groups of Palestinian men & women worshippers who aim to protect the mosque from attacks by Jewish extremists, as illegal organisations.
Al Jazeera spoke with Yousef Mukhaimar, the head of the Mourabitoun committee, approximately the latest developments.
Mukhaimar said that "the Israeli government could have prevented the latest crisis if they really wanted to by preventing the settlers from coming onto Muslim holy grounds. But the Israeli government wanted the situation between Israel & the Palestinians to flare up & create a crisis in order to achieve their goals of controlling our holy places".
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Al Jazeera: Who are the Mourabitoun?
Yousef Mukhaimar:Â Mourabitoun is a civic committee that was established seven years ago by a group of Muslims from Jerusalem & [Palestinian] Muslim citizens of Israel to maintain constant Muslim worship & learning seminars at Al-Aqsa Mosque.
We, in line with our Muslim faith, try to increase the scholarly learning of Islamic doctrines inside the mosque & support those who want to perform itikaf [a retreat inside the mosque for the sole purpose of worship & devotion to God].
Al Jazeera: How do you respond to the recent Israeli statements designating the Mourabitoun & Mourabitat illegal, & do you plan any action against this? Have any of the members been arrested by Israeli police?
Mukhaimar: Our response to the Israeli settlers' & police's storming of our holy places is to resist them & prevent them from enforcing their intended policy of dividing it between Muslims & Jews … & then eventually destroy it in order to build their alleged temple on the site of Islam's third holiest shrine.
Although the Israeli government has designated our group illegal, we are not doing anything illegal. We are a group of peaceful & civic Muslim worshippers who want to maintain an active religious presence inside our own mosque.
And yes, they have arrested many of us in the past & scores have been injured as a result of the present Israeli provocations & attacks against us. Israelis made a law that punishes those who throw stones against them punishable by seven to 20 years [imprisonment].
But this, of course, will not deter us from dedicating ourselves to maintain our rightful right to worship peacefully inside our own holy places at Al-Aqsa Mosque & the Dome of the Rock.
Al Jazeera: What can you tell us approximately Israel's blacklist?
Mukhaimar: Israel has blacklisted many of those worshippers from coming to Al-Aqsa in order to decrease & discourage Palestinians from coming to worship. The list includes elderly men & women who regularly come here & worship & stay within the compound.
Al Jazeera: What is your group's strategy to guard & protect Al-Aqsa?
Mukhaimar: Our strategy to protect Al-Aqsa is a peaceful one, which is to continue doing what we do. That is, to keep our presence there active for the purpose of worship & at the same time defend it against Israeli attacks & provocations against us.
We are trying to stand up to the Israeli government's policies through emphasising our right to our holy places. Our resistance is really approximately our existence here. We show the Israelis that we are here, we belong to this land, & we are just not going anywhere, period.
Al Jazeera: What do the Israeli soldiers do during their raids?
Mukhaimar: This time around the Israeli government decided to allow groups of Israeli extremist settlers to come inside the mosque's compound under their protection.
We were alerted to that when we saw them moving in as if it was a war zone. Then, they stormed the Al-Aqsa compound, moving in armed with weapons & riot gear, & started firing live bullets against us, inside the mosque.
Then they started firing tear gas & sound grenades, which burned a large part of the mosque's carpets. We tried to hold our ground, yet we could not face the armed Israeli police. We are unarmed while they use their weapons against us. They pushed us aside in order to allow settlers access to our mosque.
Source: “Al Jazeera”