Israeli forces stormed the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound on Sunday morning, the last day of the Muslim Eid al-Adha holiday, witnesses said. Witnesses told Ma’an that special Israeli forces stormed the holy site via the Moroccan gate and the Chain gate, firing rubber-coated steel bullets and stun grenades at worshipers. A police statement said young Palestinians “threw stones and fireworks at police and border police forces,” who responded with “riot dispersal means.”
Tension rose around the Al-Aqsa Mosque in the Old City of Jerusalem on Sunday, as right-wing Israeli groups allegedly urged supporters to perform Jewish prayers near the Chain gate and inside the compound to celebrate the Jewish Feast of Tabernacles holiday, a seven day feast which begins on Sunday evening.
While Israeli police have stated that non-Muslims would be denied entry to the compound during the four days of the Muslim Eid al-Adha, which started Thursday, Israeli forces have continued to be heavily deployed across the Old City surrounding the compound for the fourth day, further straining tensions around the site.
Severe restrictions have been placed on Muslim worshipers wishing to enter the site in recent weeks, including a newly established schedule in which Jews have been permitted to tour the compound between the hours of 7 a.m. to 11 p.m., during which time Muslim entry has been restricted.
Senior Palestinian officials have expressed concerns that Israel is restricting access to the compound in a bid to establish daily Jewish prayer, despite an agreement forbidding non-Muslim worship at the site.
To “counter Israeli plots to divide Al-Aqsa Mosque between Muslims and Jews,” Palestinian citizens of Israel plan to flock to the mosque in masses over the next several days, speaker of the joint Arab bloc in the Israeli Knesset, Ayman Odeh, wrote on his Facebook page on Saturday night.
“Now there are crowds in the blessed Al-Aqsa Mosque and these crowds will grow larger tomorrow and the day after tomorrow in particular,” Odeh continued.
The goal behind the gathering, he said, is “to uproot the idea of dividing Al-Aqsa and its courtyards.”
He added that struggle to “protect Al-Aqsa” continues along with the struggle to end occupation, “and the Palestinian people as a whole.” The third holiest site in Islam, the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound is also venerated as Judaism’s most holy place as it sits where Jews believe the First and Second Temples once stood.
Following Israel’s occupation of East Jerusalem in 1967, Israel has maintained an agreement with the Islamic trust that controls the Al-Aqsa compound not to allow non-Muslim prayer in the area. Jewish prayer is allowed at the neighboring Western Wall, which is the last remnant of the Second Temple. However, Israeli forces have regularly escorted Jewish visitors to the Al-Aqsa compound, leading to anger among Muslim worshipers. MAAN