Dozens of extremist Jewish settlers Thursday forced their way into Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa Mosque compound where they performed Talmudic rituals, according to a Palestinian official.
“Around 48 extremist settlers — backed by Israeli police — stormed the mosque compound through the Al-Mugharbeh Gate,” Firas al-Dibs, a spokesman for the Jordan-run Religious Endowments Authority, told Anadolu Agency.
“They conducted a tour of the area, passing by the Dome of the Rock and the Al-Qibali Mosque before leaving through the Al-Silsila Gate,” he said.
Over the past week, Jewish settler groups have called on followers to converge on the Al-Aqsa compound in large numbers to mark the Jewish Passover holiday, which this year runs from April 10 to 16.
“Last year, more than 1,000 extremist Jewish settlers forced their way into the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound during Passover,” al-Dibs said.
“This year, however, hundreds of Muslim worshipers and guards will be ready at the mosque to stop the incursion,” he added.
For Muslims, Al-Aqsa represents the world’s third holiest site. Jews, for their part, refer to the area as the “Temple Mount,” claiming it was the site of two Jewish temples in ancient times.
Some extremist Jewish groups have called for the demolition of the Al-Aqsa Mosque so that a Jewish temple might be built in its place.
In September 2000, a visit to the flashpoint religious site by late Israeli politician Ariel Sharon sparked what later became known as the “Second Intifada,” a popular Palestinian uprising in which thousands of people were killed.
Israel occupied East Jerusalem — in which the Al-Aqsa is located — during the 1967 Middle East War. It later annexed the entire city in 1980, unilaterally claiming it as the capital of the self-proclaimed Jewish state.