Hundreds of settlers storm Al-Aqsa Mosque, raise Israeli flag
Hundreds of Israeli settlers stormed the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in occupied East Jerusalem on Thursday morning under the protection of the Israeli security forces, to mark Israeli Independence Day.
Settlers raised the Israeli flag while in the mosque's courtyard, the Palestinian Authority's news agency WAFA reported, to mark the anniversary of the establishment of Israel 74 years ago, when hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were driven from their homes.
Israeli security forces surrounded worshippers at one of the compound's prayer spaces and fired tear gas, sound bombs and rubber bullets to force them out, WAFA said.
Settler groups had called in recent days for Israelis to mark Independence Day by heading to the compound to raise the Israeli flag and sing the Israeli national anthem.
In response, Palestinian groups including Fatah called for Palestinians to head to the compound and stop the settlers.
Israeli forces began restricting movement into and around the compound on Wednesday night, but opened the gates to settlers early on Thursday morning.
Israeli forces raided Al-Aqsa Mosque on Tuesday evening and banned the Muslim night prayer call to sing the national anthem and raise flags to mark Israel's Memorial Day.
Al-Aqsa Mosque is the third-holiest site in Islam. Its compound also contains two Jewish holy sites; according to an agreement between Israelis and Palestinians, Jewish people are allowed to visit the compound, but not to pray there.
Israeli settlers and soldiers raided the mosque compound several times over the course of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which ended earlier this week. Hundreds of Palestinian worshippers were injured and hundreds more were arrested by Israeli security forces.