Israeli police threw stun grenades at Palestinian worshippers at the Al-Aqsa Mosque on Thursday and detained two young men following days of increased tension at the holy site in occupied East Jerusalem.
Official Palestinian Authority (PA)-owned Wafa news agency reported that the attack on Palestinians at the site came after a visit by Israeli settlers.
Despite the increased sensitivity around the site during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, Israeli forces have continued to allow visits to the compound by ultra-conservative right-wing Israelis.
Wafa reported that on Thursday 87 Israeli settlers “raided” the mosque’s compound in groups via the Moroccan Gate, under protection of armed Israeli forces.
Quoting Sheikh Omar al-Kiswani, the Imam and director of the Al-Aqsa Mosque, Wafa added that the Moroccan Gate is usually closed during the last ten days of Ramadan, but has been opened to Israelis this year.
Al-Kiswani added that more than 300 Israeli have visited the site in the past few days, while sources told Ma’an that more than 18 Palestinians have been detained by Israeli forces over the past three days.
Israeli forces have also reportedly been preventing Palestinian youths from carrying bags into the compound.
For many Palestinians in Jerusalem and across the occupied Palestinian territory, Ramadan is directly connected to the Al-Aqsa Mosque.
The Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, which sits just above the Western Wall plaza, houses both the Dome of the Rock and Al-Aqsa mosque. 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.
While Jewish visitation is permitted to the compound, non-Muslim worship at Al-Aqsa is prohibited according to an agreement signed between Israel and the Jordanian government after Israel’s illegal occupation of East Jerusalem in 1967.
Despite the agreement with Jordan — which is the custodian of Al-Aqsa — 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.[source: Maan News]