Dozens of Jewish settlers and Israeli forces on Tuesday forced their way into Jerusalem’s flashpoint Al-Aqsa Mosque compound following calls by Jewish settler leaders to converge on the site to mark the Jewish Yom Kippur holiday, according to a Palestinian official.
“At least 160 Jewish settlers backed by Israeli police have entered the Al-Aqsa Mosque through Al-Mugharbeh gate since the morning,” Sheikh Azzam al-Khatib, head of the Jordan-run Organization for Muslim Endowments and Al-Aqsa Affairs, told Anadolu Agency.
“Settlers toured the complex, passing by the Al-Qibali and Dome of the Rock mosques, where they performed Talmudic rituals before leaving through the Al-Rahemah and Al-Silsila gates,” he said.
Al-Khatib also noted that the Israeli authorities had restricted the entry of Muslim worshipers into the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, while allowing the entry of dozens of Jewish settlers.
Israeli troops, he said, had banned Palestinian men from entering the site while assaulting others near the Al-Silsila gate.
Earlier this week, Jewish extremist groups called on supporters to converge on Al-Aqsa on Tuesday to mark the Jewish Yom Kippur holiday, considered the holiest day on the Jewish calendar.
For Muslims, Al-Aqsa represents the world’s third holiest site. Jews, for their part, refer to the area as the “Temple Mount,” claiming it was the site of two Jewish temples in ancient times.
In September 2000, a visit to Al-Aqsa by controversial Israeli politician Ariel Sharon sparked what later became known as the “Second Intifada,” a popular uprising against the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land in which thousands of Palestinians were killed.
Israel occupied East Jerusalem — in which the Al-Aqsa is located — during the 1967 Middle East War. It formally annexed the entire city in 1980, claiming it as its capital — a move never recognized by the international community.