33rd Anniversary of the Burning of Al-Aqsa, The Threat to Jerusalem Continues

Posted: 13 Jamad-u-Thani 1423, 22 August 2002

Yesterday marked the 33rd anniversary of the burning of the Al-Aqsa mosque by Australian Zionist Denis Michael Rohan. On August 21, 1969, Rohan entered the mosque and set the Nurrudin Zingi Mihrab on fire. According to Ekrima Sabri, Mufti of Jerusalem, the minute news of the fire spread in the Old City of Jerusalem, men, women and children began bringing cans of water and sand to try to put the fire out. "Israeli authorities banned Civil Defense vehicles in Jerusalem from taking part in putting out the fire, and delayed other vehicles from Hebron, Bethlehem, Ramallah and El-Birehfrom reaching the site," Sabri said. The fire lasted for four hours and burned 1500 square meters of the 4400 square meters that comprise the compound of the mosque. The fire completely damaged the Salat Al-Din rostrum, the Mihrab and the interior of the dome. The carpets and the ceiling were also destroyed.

This attack was one in a long list of threats to Islamic holy sites and Muslim presence in Jerusalem before and since. Under Israeli military occupation, Jerusalem's native Palestinians, Muslims and Christians, live under siege. Israeli authorities routinely subject Palestinians in Jerusalem to forced expulsions, home demolitions, land confiscation, ethnic segregation and seizure of identity cards. Since March 1993, whenIsrael imposed a "closure" on Jerusalem, it has prevented Palestinian Muslims and Christians from entering the holy city without special permits that are nearly impossible to obtain. These policies are intended to create conditions of psychological and economic pressure such that non-Jews are forced to move out of the city altogether.