Groups of Israeli Jews entered the flashpoint Al-Aqsa Mosque compound on Sunday morning through the Moroccan Gate escorted by a large contingent of Israeli police officers.
Witnesses told Ma’an that more than 40 settlers entered the compound in groups, and that a large group was led by the controversial rightist lawyer Yehuda Glick.
Worshipers shouted “God is Great” in Arabic while the groups toured the compound and heated arguments were reported.
Yehuda Glick is an American-born Israeli who has been banned in the past by Israeli authorities from entering the compound due to provocations while on the site. He is the chairman of the controversial Temple Mount Heritage Fund.
Critics charge that the Temple Mount Heritage Fund leads Jewish tours to the site with the intention of leading Jewish prayer there — currently banned under Israeli agreements — and encouraging Jews to destroy the Al-Aqsa mosque and build a Jewish temple there.
Because of the sensitive nature of the Al-Aqsa compound, Israel maintains a compromise with the Islamic trust that controls it to not allow non-Muslim prayers in the area. Israeli forces regularly escort Jewish visitors to the site, leading to tension with Palestinian worshipers.
The compound, which sits just above the Western Wall plaza, houses both the Dome of the Rock and Al-Aqsa mosque and is the third holiest site in Islam.
It is also venerated as Judaism’s most holy place as it sits where Jews believe the First and Second Temples once stood. The Second Temple was destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD.
Al-Aqsa is located in East Jerusalem, a part of the internationally recognized Palestinian territories that have been occupied by the Israeli military since 1967.
(Ma’an – www.maannews.net)