Israelis storm Jerusalem's al-Aqsa mosque compound

Israelis storm Jerusalem's al-Aqsa mosque compound
A group of Israelis stormed Jerusalem's al-Aqsa Mosque compound on Sunday, under the protection of Israeli forces.
3 min read
08 August, 2016
The al-Aqsa mosque compound has been repeatedly stormed by Israeli settlers [AFP]

A group of Israelis guarded by soldiers stormed the al-Aqsa Mosque compound in occupied East Jerusalem's Old City on Monday.

Israeli special forces were deployed to courtyards of the Muslim holy site, allowing 22 Israelis to enter through the Magharba Gate, local media reported.

Meanwhile, a group of Israeli soldiers accompanied an Israeli archaeologist into the Dome of the Rock mosque.

This was not the first time Israelis or soldiers have stormed the Muslim holy site, which was closed to Jews and non-Muslims by Israeli authorities until the end of the holy Muslim month of Ramadan.

This came after days of clashes between Israeli security forces and Palestinian worshippers.

In April, more than 1,800 Israelis stormed the courtyard of the al-Aqsa mosque, according to figures documented by Quds Press news agency.

This year, nearly 5,000 Israelis broke into the east Jerusalem compound that houses the al-Aqsa Mosque and the site of the famed golden Dome of the Rock, two of the holiest sites in Islam.

Since January, 4,840 Israelis stormed al-Aqsa Mosque courtyards, the Palestinian Information Centre reported.

"This number is considered the highest compared to the same period in previous years," the group said.

These figures reflect repeated provocations and an escalation in violence against Palestinians in the Occupied Territories.

The compound - occupied by Israel in the 1967 war - was been annexed by Israeli forces but the occupation is deemed illegal under international law.

It represents the world's third holiest site for Muslims, and Jews refer to the area as the "Temple Mount", claiming it was the site of two Jewish temples in ancient times.

Last September, clashes between Palestinians and Israeli forces erupted at the compound amid fears that Tel Aviv will change the rules governing the site, which allow Jews to visit but not pray there.

Tensions have since heightened as Jewish protesters continue to storm the holy side under the protection of Israeli forces.

Crackdown on Waqf employees

On Monday, Israeli forces have led an arrest and ban campaign against dozens of Palestinian employees of the Islamic Endowment.

The Waqf, as it is known in Arabic, manages the al-Aqsa Mosque compound.

Firas al-Dibs, the head of Waqf public relations, said that at least 11 Waqf employees have been detained or summoned by Israeli forces in the past 10 days, while 10 others have been banned from entering the holy site for periods ranging from five days to six months.

Al-Dibs himself was briefly detained before being banned from accessing the religious site for six months.

Israeli forces have also "crossed a red line" by detaining Bassam al-Hallaq, the head of the Waqf rehabilitation committee, al-Dibs said, according to Maan news agency.

Hallaq, who was arrested on Thursday, was detained by Israeli forces at least twice in the span of several days before being banned from going to al-Aqsa for five days.

The recent crackdown on Waqf employees was part of a broader Israeli policy to "terrorise" Palestinians, the Waqf spokesperson added.

Israeli forces have justified the wave of arrests by claiming that the Waqf employees were suspected of carrying out repairs at the holy site without official Israeli permission.

They have also accused Palestinian security guards at the site of harassing Jewish visitors, a claim repeatedly denied by eyewitnesses.