Hundreds of Israeli settlers have stormed the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in occupied East Jerusalem to commemorate the historic destruction of Jewish temples, referred to in Israel as Tisha B’av.
Palestinian sources said that at least 1,023 settlers entered the compound on Sunday under heavy police protection.
The Al-Aqsa compound, which houses the Dome of the Rock and Al-Aqsa Mosque, represents the third holiest site in Islam, while in Judaism it is considered their most holy place.
Yehuda Glick, a far-right Israeli Knesset member, who campaigns for Jewish access to the Al-Aqsa Mosque, was seen in the compound.
Firas al-Dibis, an official with Jerusalem’s Jordan-run Religious Endowments Authority, told Anadolu News Agency that Israeli police stormed the compound before the settlers and carried out security sweeps and search.
Al-Dibis also said Israeli forces denied access to Najeh Bakirat, a scholar at the Endowments Authority, and allowed Muslim worshippers inside the mosque after seizing their IDs.
According to Palestinian local news agencies, a Palestinian boy was arrested after raising the Palestinian flag in the compound.
#Israeli soldiers rushing to arrest #Palestinian boy just for raising the flag of #Palestine inside #AlAqsa mosque yards.
It's the clearest definition of colonialism, where #Israel try to eliminate the cultural and religious identity of the #Palestinian people.#FreePalestine pic.twitter.com/ZzQxtS1MAh
— Shehab News Agency (@ShehabAgencyEn) July 22, 2018
Al Jazeera’s correspondent Mohammed Jamjoom said that tension was high and that things might get worse.
“Palestinian Muslim worshippers consider this always to be a provocation,” he said from Jerusalem.
“It is nothing new that there are these flare-ups that happen in that area,” he continued. “But on a day like today – a holiday that commemorates many disasters in Jewish history – you’re going to see more settlers who want to access the compound.”
On Saturday night, hundreds of settlers organised a march inside the walls of the Old City and at the gates of the Al-Aqsa compound. They performed prayers, danced and shouted anti-Arab and anti-Muslim slogans.
While Jewish visitation is permitted in 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.
However, Israeli authorities regularly disrupt the status quo and allow Jewish visitors to enter the site often under armed guard, while restricting access to Palestinians.