Israel tightens entry restrictions to the Al-Aqsa mosque as Jewish holidays are in full swing
The Israeli police have prevented scores of Palestinians from entering the Al-Aqsa Mosque on Thursday morning. An Awqaf official said the Israeli police were not allowing Palestinians from the occupied West Bank through because "their permits were valid only for work or medical reasons, but not visiting the Al-Aqsa".
The restrictions on Thursday, 28 September, coincided with Jewish visits to the holy site.
Palestinians say that the Israeli police often limit Muslim entry to the Al-Aqsa during the morning hours but allow radical Israeli setters inside the compound.
Israel enforces entry restrictions to occupied East Jerusalem for Palestinians of the occupied West Bank most of the year.
Tensions escalate in occupied East Jerusalem during the Jewish holidays as calls for Jewish visits in mass to the Al-Aqsa Mosque are echoed by fundamentalist Israeli settlers and politicians.
Last week, the Awqaf authority released a statement condemning the "desecration" of a Muslim cemetery near the Golden Gate or Bab el-Rahmeh of the Old City. The incident happened on the eve of the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur. A video taken by Awqaf guards showed scores of "radical Jews" stepping and singing on top of Muslim graves. The act was carried out under the "protection of the Israeli police", according to the Awqaf statement.
"The [desecration] scene reflects the hostile essence towards the Islamic heritage in the vicinity of the Al-Aqsa", the statement added.
In recent days, the entry constraints also reached Palestinians in occupied East Jerusalem.
Talal al-Shweiki, 30, a resident of Silwan, attempted to enter the Al-Aqsa mosque but was stopped by police at one of the gates known as "the Iron Gate". After a few minutes, the police informed him that he could go through but on the condition that he exit from the same gate. Talal tried to reason with the police that he was attending a funeral and that the procession goes out through Bab al-Asbat ("Lions Gate"). But it was to no avail. A verbal row ensued, and Talal was refused entry.
Talal told The New Arab that he made a second attempt to enter the mosque a few days later, but the same policeman barred him.
Israel occupied the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, in the 1967 war. Subsequently, it illegally annexed the occupied territories. Most countries, however, do not recognise Israeli sovereignty over the West Bank and Jerusalem.