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Why the Al-Aqsa Mosque has often been a site of conflict between Israel and Palestine


The violence that spread from Jerusalem to cities across Israel and the Palestinian territories, leaving at least 60 dead so far, has both historical and contemporary roots.

In recent weeks, tension has flared over the eviction of Palestinian families in Sheikh Jarrah, East Jerusalem, Israeli authorities blocking access to the important Damascus Gate plaza during Ramadan, and a march of thousands of Israeli ultra-nationalists through the city on May 6, in celebration of “Jerusalem Day,” which marks the capture of East Jerusalem in 1967.

But the one incident that led to a significant escalation involved Israeli security forces firing rubber-coated bullets, tear gas and stun grenades at worshipers gathered at Al-Aqsa mosque on May 7.

Palestine Information Network *AQSA UPDATE*

After Taraweeh last night and into the wee hours of this morning, Masjid al-Aqsa was transformed into exactly the same theatre for Israeli attacks as yesterday morning. pic.twitter.com/yv455UeQvI

— Masjid al Aqsa (@firstqiblah) May 11, 2021

As a scholar of global Islam, I teach introduction to Islam and include a discussion about Al-Aqsa as part of the syllabus. That is because Al-Aqsa has deep religious significance for Muslims around the world. But, it is also important to highlight its remarkable political relevance for Palestinians. These two facts make it a focal point for conflict.

Muhammad’s night journey

The Masjid al-Aqsa, or simply Al-Aqsa, means…

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