Scores of Jewish settlers forced their way into Israeli-occupied East Jerusalem’s flashpoint Al-Aqsa Mosque complex on Thursday, according to a Palestinian official.
“About 150 Jewish settlers -- backed by at least 30 policemen -- have forced their way into the mosque compound since morning,” Firas al-Dibs, a spokesman for Jerusalem’s Religious Endowments Authority (a Jordan-run agency tasked with overseeing the city's Muslim and Christian sites), told Anadolu Agency.
After entering the compound through the Al-Mugharbah Gate, settlers proceeded to take a tour of the compound, passing through the courtyards of both the Al-Qibali and Dome of the Rock mosques, the official said.
According to al-Dibs, a handful of settlers tried to perform Talmudic rituals before leaving the site through the Al-Silsila Gate.
The latest escalation comes one day after the Israeli authorities temporarily shut the mosque compound to Palestinian worshippers, further raising tensions at the flashpoint religious site.
Tension has steadily mounted in Jerusalem since last month, when Israeli police briefly sealed the mosque compound’s Al-Rahma Gate, sparking angry Palestinian demonstrations.
In the weeks since, the Israeli authorities have banned scores of Palestinians -- including religious officials -- from entering the Al-Aqsa, which for Muslims represents the world’s third holiest site.
Israel occupied East Jerusalem, in which the Al-Aqsa is located, during the 1967 Arab-Israeli War. It annexed the entire city in 1980 in a move never recognized by the international community.