More than 200 right-wing Israelis “stormed” the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound on Tuesday morning under the protection of armed Israeli forces on the second day of the Jewish holiday of Sukkot, according to witnesses, while closures which were implemented on Saturday night on the occupied West Bank and the besieged Gaza Strip were partially lifted, Israeli media reported.
Director of the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound Sheikh Omar al-Kiswani told Ma’an that “a group of 206 Israeli settlers have raided Al-Aqsa Mosque since Tuesday morning, and toured Al-Aqsa under the protection of Israeli special forces and police,” one day after an estimated 43 Israelis also toured the compound.
Al-Kiswani added that Israeli police stationed at the gates of the compound seized Muslim worshipers’ identity cards before allowing them into the mosque. He condemned Israeli actions at the compound, “including the tightened procedures imposed on Muslim worshipers while allowing the raids of Israeli settlers.
”Al-Kiswani called upon Muslims to “intensify their presence in Al-Aqsa Mosque to protect it from Israeli plans and daily raids.” Eyewitnesses told Ma’an that the Israeli tours in the compound were very “provocative,” saying that many Israelis tried to perform religious rituals in contravention of an agreement between Israel and the Islamic Endowment (Waqf) in charge of the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound which prohibits non-Muslim prayer at the site.
Al-Kiswani highlighted that some right-wing Jewish organizations had previously called on Israelis to visit the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound over the holidays, after they received assurances from the Israeli army that entry would be secured for every Jewish person wishing to visit the holy site
Israeli police spokeswoman Luba al-Samri said in a statement at the start of Yom Kippur that Israeli police, border police, and Israeli “volunteers” would be spread throughout different areas in the city of Jerusalem beginning early Tuesday morning, the beginning of Yom Kippur, to “maintain order and provide protection for Jews expected to arrive to the Western Wall for prayer.”
Al-Samri added that Israeli police provided the volunteers with weapons to “guarantee the safety of the worshipers.”
The third holiest site in Islam, it is also venerated as Judaism’s most holy place, as it sits where Jews believe the First and Second Temples once stood. The Second Temple was destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD.
While Jewish visitation is permitted to the compound, non-Muslim worship is prohibited according to an agreement signed between Israel and the Jordanian government after Israel’s illegal occupation of East Jerusalem in 1967.
Despite this agreement, the Israeli authorities regularly allow Jewish visitors to enter the site — often under armed guard. Such visits are typically made by right-wingers attempting to unsettle the status quo at the site, and coincide with restrictions on Palestinian access, including bans on entrance and detentions.Tensions around the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound were a main contributor to the increasing unrest that began last October, after right-wing Israelis made frequent visits to the site during a succession of Jewish holidays this time last year