JERUSALEM (Ma’an) — Scores of Jewish Israelis entered the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound on Tuesday and performed religious rituals on the occasion of the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur.
The Islamic Endowment (Waqf) in charge of the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound reported that 156 Israelis escorted by Israeli police toured the compound, entering through the Moroccan Gate at 7:30 a.m.
Eyewitnesses said that many of the Israelis performed religious rituals at the compound, especially at the Chain and Cotton Merchants gates under the protection of Israeli police.
Israeli forces reportedly prevented a number of Palestinian youth from entering the compound, and checked the identity cards of those who were allowed to enter.
Witnesses said that Israeli forces forcibly escorted a Palestinian youth out of the Al-Aqsa Mosque and assaulted him, before detaining another, identified as Mufid Ghaith.
The visit came as Israeli forces enforced a series of closures and heightened security operations throughout the occupied West Bank, East Jerusalem, and the larger Jerusalem district in anticipation of the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur on Tuesday.
The Waqf, along with a number of other Islamic organizations, released a statement condemning Israeli violations at the Al-Aqsa compound, saying that it was facing a “vicious attack” by extremist Israeli organizations which continuously call for Jewish worshipers to enter the compound and perform religious rituals there, especially during Jewish holidays, in breach of an agreement between Israel and the Waqf.
Following Israel’s illegal annexation of East Jerusalem in 1967, Israel has maintained a compromise with the Waqf to not allow non-Muslim prayer in the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound.
The statement added that the visits at the compound represented an attempt to change the “historical situation” of the Al-Aqsa Mosque.
The statement added that the continued Israeli presence there would “ignite” tensions, and held the Israeli government fully responsible for any consequences of its actions at the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, particularly against its employees and Palestinian worshipers.
Tensions around the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound were a main contributor to the increasing unrest that began last October, after right-wing Israelis made frequent visits to the site during a succession of Jewish holidays this time last year.
The Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, which sits just above the Western Wall plaza, houses both the Dome of the Rock and the Al-Aqsa Mosque.
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.