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Attack on Muslims in al-Aqsa tantamount to attack on Christians: Archbishop

Bishop Atallah Hanna, the Greek Orthodox Archbishop of Sebastia, delivers a speech during a demonstration in Beit Jala in the occupied West Bank on May 17, 2021, to express solidarity with Gaza and Sheikh Jarah. (File Photo by AFP)

The Palestinian Archbishop of the Greek Orthodox Church in al-Quds has denounced the relentless aggression by the Israeli regime against peaceful worshipers at the al-Aqsa Mosque, expressing solidarity with Muslims resisting the occupying regime.

“Attacks on Muslims in al-Aqsa are attacks on Christians as well,” Theodosius Atallah Hanna said in remarks on Wednesday in an interview with Lebanon's al-Mayadeen television network.

He warned that the unsavory events that unfolded at the al-Aqsa mosque compound on Wednesday “may happen in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher," --a church in the Christian Quarter of the Old City of al-Quds.

The remarks come as Israeli forces brutally assaulted dozens of Palestinian worshipers inside al-Aqsa on Tuesday night and forcibly removed them from the site where they were peacefully observing the holy month of Ramadan.

“Palestinian Christians, along with visitors and pilgrims from all over the world, are often subjected to insults by settlers … the occupation treats the Palestinians in al-Quds as if they don't belong to this land and they are by-passers,” added the archbishop.

Noting that al-Aqsa Mosque and the Church of the Holy Sepulcher are “inseparable twins,” he stressed, “We will not give up our al-Quds and its identity.”

He also called for the immediate release of all those who were arrested by the occupation forces.

According to eyewitnesses, dozens of heavily armed Israeli forces raided Muslims’ third-holiest site using stun grenades and tear gas against hundreds of men and women who were staying at the Qibli prayer hall overnight to observe the Itikaf ritual.

Videos from the raid show the occupation forces brutally beating defenseless worshipers with batons and riot guns. Dozens of Palestinians were wounded and arrested in the attack.

Many Muslim countries and organizations have strongly condemned the latest aggression, calling on international bodies to stop Israeli crimes and protect the al-Aqsa Mosque compound.

Israel violating freedom of worship

In a statement on Wednesday, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) strongly slammed the latest Israeli aggression, noting that it considers this grave escalation an attack on the sanctity of holy sites and on the freedom of worship, in flagrant violation of the Geneva Conventions and relevant UN resolutions.

Reaffirming that the entire blessed al-Aqsa Mosque and its compound is a place of worship exclusively for Muslims, OIC Secretary General Hissein Brahim Taha said the occupying power is “fully responsible for the repercussions” of these attacks that only fuel more tensions, violence, and instability in the region.

He called on the international community to act seriously to put an end to such repeated Israeli violations and to compel Israel, the occupying power, to respect the sanctity of the holy sites and to preserve the legal and historical status of al-Aqsa Mosque.

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