Israel ‘Has Taken Over’ Aqsa Compound, Says Official

The director of the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, Sheikh Omar al-Kiswani, said Sunday that Israel had effectively taken over the holy site, after a day of violent clashes between Palestinian worshipers and Israeli police took place there.

Kiswani told Ma’an that having brought the compound under occupation in 1967, “today, the (Israeli) occupation authorities have imposed their sovereignty over it by power of force.”

He pointed to Israeli control over who enters and leaves, and their use of force against Palestinians that challenge them, including the assaulting of Islamic Endowment employees.

The director made his comments after a day of violent clashes at the holy site, during which witnesses said Israeli police entered the Al-Aqsa Mosque itself, Islam’s third-holiest site, and caused damage.

Police said they only closed its doors to lock in rioters throwing stones, fireworks and other objects.

Israeli forces earlier Sunday prevented most Palestinians from entering the compound in a bid to clear way for Jewish worshipers visiting the site ahead of the Jewish new year.

However, Israeli police said that young Palestinians had spent the night inside the mosque, and clashes quickly broke out when Israeli forces stormed the compound.

Israeli forces said no arrests were made and no injuries were reported during the clashes, although Palestinians witnesses reported several injuries, and an AFP journalist said that he saw a number of people were detained.

A Palestinian boy identified as Anas Siyam was also reportedly evacuated to the hospital after he was hit with a rubber-coated steel bullet in the chest.

Kiswani said that two Islamic Endowment employees were shot with rubber-coated bullets in their upper bodies, while dozens of others suffered bruises after being assaulted by Israeli police.

He said that both he and the head of the compound’s female guards, Zeinat Abu Sbeih, were assaulted, while the compound’s Palestinian guards were forced out of the compound and beaten.

Kiswani said that nearly 160 Israeli settlers entered the compound during the morning and evening, despite the Islamic Endowment demanding that Israel close the compound’s Moroccan Gate out of respect for Muslim worshipers’ concerns.

A Palestinian youth is evacuated after being injured during clashes between Palestinians and Israeli police at Jerusalem’s flashpoint Al-Aqsa mosque on September 13, 2015 (AFP/Ahmad Gharabli)

‘Attacks against Our Holy Places’

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas condemned what he called an Israeli police “attack” at the site, saying that sites such as Al-Aqsa constituted a “red line.”

“We will not allow attacks against our holy places,” a statement from his office said.

Meanwhile, a Netanyahu statement said Israel would act “to maintain the status quo and order” at the compound.

“It is our responsibility and our power to act against rioters to allow freedom of worship at this holy place,” he said.

United Nations Middle East peace envoy Nickolay Mladenov urged restraint on both sides.

“I urge all to do their part in ensuring that visitors and worshipers demonstrate restraint and respect for the sanctity of the area,” he said in a statement.

“I take note of the statement by the prime minister of Israel that the status quo at the Holy Sites will be maintained.”

Jordan condemned what it described as an assault by the Israeli army. Egypt, the only other Arab country to have a peace treaty with Israel, also condemned its actions at the compound.

Non-Muslims are allowed to visit the compound, but Jews must not pray or display national symbols for fear of triggering tensions with Palestinian worshipers.

Palestinians fear Israel is seeking to change rules governing the site, with far-right Jewish groups pushing for more access and even efforts by fringe organisations to erect a new temple.

The defense minister last week banned the Murabitat and Murabitun groups, which his office claimed were “a main factor in creating the tension and violence” at the compound.

Israel seized East Jerusalem, where Al-Aqsa is located, in the Six Day War of 1967.

The compound is the scene of frequent clashes.

(Ma’an and news agencies)

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