More than 200 Jewish extremists have reportedly entered al-Aqsa Mosque, positioning themselves inside the holy site, allegedly to perform religious rituals.
According to a statement released by the Al-Aqsa Foundation for Endowment and Heritage, the incursion was "significant". The foundation has called on Muslims, Arabs and all Palestinians to take action in support of the mosque.
The attack comes amidst Tisha B’Av, also known as "The Ninth of Av" — a Jewish fasting day in commemoration of the destruction of the two Temples. The occasion falls on the ninth day of the Hebrew month of Av, which usually coincides with late July or mid-August.
The First Temple was built by King Solomon and was considered the most sacred site in ancient Judaism. It was destroyed when the Babylonians pillaged Jerusalem (al-Quds) in 586 BCE.
According to Jewish accounts, the construction of the Second Temple was completed in 516 BCE on the site of the First Temple but was destroyed during the Roman siege of Jerusalem in 70 CE.
The destruction of the two Temples allegedly took place on the same day — the ninth of Av — but about 656 years apart.
The storming of al-Aqsa Mosque — a holy site in the eyes of many Muslims — has drawn anti-Israeli condemnation.
Former Palestinian minister for al-Quds affairs, Hatem Abdel Qader, has warned that the Israeli government is "playing with fire" by allowing far-right Jewish groups to put the mosque in harm’s way.
Abdel Qader resigned from his post last month after he censured the acting Palestinian Authority for neglecting al-Quds. He says the Salam Fayyad government refuses to uphold its commitments to the city, which is undergoing a difficult period.
According to Abdel Qader, the Palestinian Finance Ministry "contributes nothing to the effort to keep the residents on their land."