Groups of Jews described by Palestinian sources as "extremists" have been entering the courtyard of Al-Aqsa Mosque in occupied Jerusalem since the early hours of Monday, escorted by Israeli police. The groups claim to be honouring the Jewish Tisha B'av holiday, which commemorates the destruction of the temple on the site.
The sources added that such incursions by extremist Jewish settlers are very provocative; their Israeli police escorts are there to prevent confrontations with Palestinian worshippers who try to stop the settlers.
The latest incursions by Jewish extremists began when a group tried to enter Al-Aqsa Mosque during Friday prayers last week. They were confronted by the worshippers and left the area. Nevertheless, a larger group backed by Israeli police and Israel Defence Forces special units stormed into the Mosque after the special Ramadan late-night prayers (Tarawih) for the third night running, forcing Palestinian worshippers out. The Palestinians were praying in defiance of the Israeli authorities' ban on the presence of any Muslim in Al-Aqsa mosque after the normal night (Isha) prayers until the dawn (Fajr) prayers. Israel's restriction on religious activity in this revered place of worship runs contrary to its claim that it allows freedom of worship in the areas it controls.