Al Aqsa mosque
Today marks 52nd anniversary of Al-Aqsa Mosque burning (PHOTOS)
Dennis Michael Rohan, a fanatic Australian Christian, attempted to set fire to Al-Aqsa Mosque on August 21, 1969, with the apparent cooperation of Israeli colonial forces. The Noble Sanctuary of Al-Aqsa, which has been under siege for the past 52 years, is still under threat.
The alarm went off at 5:00 a.m. on Thursday morning. On closer inspection, Palestinian guards in the Aqsa compound noticed smoke billowing from the mosque's south-east wing and discovered a burning within the prayer hall.
Muslims and Christians hurried to the mosque to put out the fires, but Israeli occupation forces barred them from entering. They forced their way into the Noble Sanctuary after a few brief but furious clashes and began putting out the flames.
After the fire extinguishers failed, they looked for water supplies but discovered that the pumps were broken and the hoses were severed. They instantly formed a human chain and brought water to the building with buckets and other small containers.
As fire vehicles arrived from the nearby West Bank cities of Nablus, Ramallah, Al-Bireh, Bethlehem, Hebron, Jenin, and Tulkarem, Israeli occupation soldiers blocked them from accessing the scene, stating that the crisis was the responsibility of the Jerusalem Municipality.
The fire raged for hours, with flames reaching the windows just beneath the dome before it was finally put out.
The depth of the destruction was revealed after the smoke cleared. The fire had raced through some of the mosque's oldest parts, destroying the 900-year-old wood and ivory pulpit presented by Salahuddin Al-Ayubi, as well as mosaic panels on the walls and ceilings, and leaving many areas scorched and burned.
As word of the fire spread, angry rallies erupted all throughout the city. The entire city of occupied Jerusalem went on strike, which was followed by similar actions across the West Bank and even in Israeli territory. As a result, Israeli security personnel shut all entrance points to the mosque, preventing Friday prayers from being held in the site for the first time.
Dennis Michael Rohan, an Australian Christian traveler, was quickly recognized as a suspect and detained on August 23. As "the Lord's emissary," Rohan was unafraid to reveal his motivations for the crime; he wanted to hasten the second coming of Jesus Christ, which he believed could only be accomplished by allowing the Jews to build a temple in the place of Al-Aqsa Mosque, where it is claimed that the Templars were imprisoned.