Over 1,600 Jewish settlers forced their way into East Jerusalem’s flashpoint Al-Aqsa Mosque compound last week to mark the Jewish holiday of Sukkot, a Palestinian official said Tuesday.
Firas al-Dibs, a spokesman for the Jerusalem Islamic Waqf (a Jordan-run organization responsible for overseeing the city’s Islamic sites), told Anadolu Agency that a total of 1,640 Jewish settlers — backed by at least 245 Israeli security personnel — had forced their way into the mosque compound last week to mark the weeklong Sukkot holiday.
Settlers, he said, had repeatedly toured the Al-Aqsa complex, passing by both the Al-Qibali and Dome of the Rock mosques, where, he added, they “performed Talmudic rituals”.
During the same period, the Israeli authorities had restricted the entry of Muslim worshipers into the site, according to al-Dibs.
Over the course of the weeklong holiday, the official asserted, the Israeli army had put up roadblocks at the mosque compound’s gates, stopping hundreds of Muslim worshipers from entering the site for “security reasons”.
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 September 2000, a visit to Al-Aqsa by controversial Israeli politician Ariel Sharon sparked what later became known as the “Second Intifada,” a five-year-long popular uprising in which thousands of Palestinians were killed.
Israel occupied East Jerusalem, in which the Al-Aqsa is located, during the 1967 Middle East War. It formally annexed the entire city in 1980, claiming it as its capital in a move never recognized by the international community.