Scores of Jewish settlers on Thursday forced their way into Jerusalem’s flashpoint Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, according to a Palestinian official.
“Since Thursday morning, over 268 Jewish settlers have entered the compound,” Firas al-Dibs, a spokesman for Jerusalem’s Religious Endowments Authority — a Jordan-run authority responsible for overseeing the city’s Muslim and Christian holy sites –, told Anadolu Agency.
According to al-Dibs, the settlers entered Al-Aqsa — accompanied by Israeli police — through the compound’s Al-Mugharbah Gate.
The Grand Mufti of Jerusalem Sheikh Muhammad Hussein demanded that the site be protected and said that he would hold the Israeli government responsible for any escalation.
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.
Israel occupied East Jerusalem, in which the Al-Aqsa is located, during the 1967 Arab-Israeli War.
Israel annexed the entire city in 1980, claiming it as the Jewish state’s “eternal and undivided” capital.
Eid al-Adha, known as the “festival of sacrifice,” coincides with the completion of the Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca and commemorates Ibrahim’s (Abraham) readiness to sacrifice his son in order to demonstrate his dedication to G-d, according to the Independent.
The Eid begins on the evening of Sunday, August 11, and ends on the evening of Thursday, August 15.
From Saturday night, August 10, until Sunday evening, Jews mark Tisha B’Av, the day that the two Jewish Temples in Jerusalem were destroyed, by fasting for 25 hours and abiding by other mourning practices, including sitting on the floor or low chairs and reciting the Book of Lamentations (Megillat Eichah), in which the prophet Jeremiah laments the destruction of Jerusalem and the subsequent exile.
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Visits by religious Jews to the Temple Mount are monitored by Waqf guards and Israeli police – and all Jewish prayer, including silent prayer, is forbidden, according to the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. No sacred Jewish objects, such as prayer books or prayer shawls, may be brought onto the mount, according to tourism website Tourist Israel.
While Israel’s Supreme Court has ruled that “every Jew has the right to ascend the Temple Mount, to pray on it, and to commune with his Creator,” they also decided that “this right, like other basic rights, is not an absolute right. And in a place at which the likelihood of damage to the public peace and even to human life is almost certain, this can justify limiting the freedom of religious worship and also limiting the freedom of expression.”
The Palestinian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Emigrants has been monitoring social media posts by the reported “Union of Temple Organizations” and has found that they are submitting a request to the minister of internal security to increase the duration of Jewish visits to the Temple Mount and to allow entry from all the gates.