Several Jewish extremists on Sunday raised Israeli flags outside the gates of occupied East Jerusalem’s flashpoint Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, according to the mosque’s Palestinian director.
“A group of Jewish settlers, protected by Israeli police, raised Israeli flags outside Al-Aqsa’s southern Al-Silsila Gate,” mosque director Omar Al-Qiswani told Anadolu Agency.
He said another 35 Jewish extremists, meanwhile, had forced their way into the mosque compound via the Al-Mugharbeh Gate.
“One of them tried to perform Talmudic rituals near the Dome of the Rock Mosque, but met resistance from Muslim worshippers,” Al-Qiswani added.
Tension has been running high at Al-Aqsa since Sunday morning, with Israeli police imposing tight security measures at the compound’s entrances and scrutinizing worshippers’ identity cards before allowing them in.
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.
In recent months, groups of Jewish extremists – often accompanied by Israeli security forces – have repeatedly forced their way into the Al-Aqsa complex. The frequent violations anger Palestinian Muslims and occasionally lead to violent confrontations.
In September 2000, a visit to Al-Aqsa by controversial Israeli politician Ariel Sharon sparked what later became known as the Second Intifada, a popular Palestinian uprising against Israel’s decades-long occupation.