Israeli settlers storm Al-Aqsa compound in Ramadan raid under army protection

Israeli settlers storm Al-Aqsa compound in Ramadan raid under army protection
Hundreds of Israeli settlers stormed the Al-Aqsa holy site amid continued restrictions against Palestinians in the month of Ramadan.
3 min read
12 March, 2024
Palestinian Muslims perform evening prayer known as 'Taraweeh' outside the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem's al-Aqsa Mosque compound during the holy fasting month of Ramadan on March 11 [Getty]

Israeli settlers stormed the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in occupied East Jerusalem in their hundreds on Tuesday with the protection of the army, Anadolu Agency reports, as Palestinians marked the second day of Ramadan.

It comes amid Israeli restrictions on Palestinian Muslim worshippers trying to access the Jerusalem holy site during the Islamic fasting month of Ramadan

Far-right Israeli Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir recently urged tougher restrictions on Ramadan worship at the mosque, while Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the numbers admitted would be similar to last year. 

Groups of settlers raided the compound on the second day of Ramadan, who were escorted by Israeli forces from the Al-Mugharbah Gate area, located to the mosque's west side, according to Palestinian news agency WAFA.

Around 275 settlers forcibly entered the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound earlier on Monday provoked by calls issued from extremist Jewish groups to increase its assaults during Ramadan, Wafa said.  

The New Arab reported that Israeli police forces also barred hundreds of Palestinian Muslim worshippers from entering the compound on Sunday evening. 

Some Palestinians who attempted to enter Al-Aqsa were faced with severe beatings as a large Israeli police force only permitted women and men aged over 40. 

Under an agreement between Israel and Jordan, prayer at the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound is reserved for Muslims only although Jewish extremists regularly raid the site, often with military protection.

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Despite limitations on access to Islam's third holiest site, nearly 35,000 Palestinians attended the mosque for taraweeh prayers on Monday, which was the second evening of Ramadan.  

The taraweeh prayer is an optional prayer that is performed during Ramadan month following the final set of prayers of Isha. 

Jordan's Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi said on Monday that the Israeli restrictions on access to the mosque compound during the Muslim fasting month was pushing the situation towards an "explosion". 

Safadi said his country, which overviews the holy site, rejected Israel's announced move to limit access during Ramadan, citing security needs with war raging in Gaza. 

"We warn that desecrating the sanctity of Al-Aqsa Mosque is playing with fire," Safadi said in a joint news conference with the Vatican's foreign minister Archbishop Paul Gallagher. 

"Not allowing worshippers to perform their religious duties and their rituals in this holy month and restricting freedom to enter the Aqsa mosque, all that pushes torwards an explosive situation which is what we are warning about," Safadi added. 

Israel was also risking wider violence in the Israeli occupied West Bank by what Safadi said were unilateral Israeli measures to change the status quo citing accelerated Jewish settlement building on Palestinian land and what he termed as stepped up "terror attacks by armed settlers on Palestinian villagers". 

"The West Bank is boiling," Safadi added. 

Tensions have intensified across the occupied West Bank since Israel launched its deadly offensive following the 7 October attack. 

Around 400 Palestinians have since been killed by Israeli forces or Jewish settlers. 

Israel's relentless campaign in Gaza has caused increasing alarm across the world as the growing risk of famine threatens to add to a death toll that has already passed 31,000. 

Reuters has also contributed to this piece.