Scores of Jewish settlers on Sunday stormed the Al-Aqsa Mosque complex in occupied East Jerusalem, a Palestinian official said.
“As many as 59 settlers stormed the holy compound through Al-Magharbeh Gate under the protection of Israeli police,” Sheikh Azzam al-Khatib, director-general of the Organization for Muslim Endowments and Al-Aqsa Affairs, told Anadolu Agency.
The settlers wandered through the compound’s courtyards, passing through the Qibali and Marawani mosques inside the holy complex before departing through Al-Silsileh Gate, he added.
Meanwhile, Israeli police allowed Palestinian men to enter the compound while denying women’s entry.
“We performed the noon prayers outside the gates of the compound after we were denied access by Israeli police,” one of the women who had been barred from entering the complex told Anadolu Agency.
“At least 70 women were barred from entering the complex since the early morning,” the woman, who asked to remain anonymous, told AA.
Tension has been running high in East Jerusalem since Israel closed the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound late last month following the shooting of an extremist rabbi in West Jerusalem.
The closure of Al-Aqsa, along with the killing of a young Palestinian man suspected of shooting the rabbi, has fueled angry protests by Palestinians in East Jerusalem .
Earlier this month, an Israeli police officer was killed when a Palestinian driver ran over a group of Israeli pedestrians in East Jerusalem. The Palestinian motorist was shot and killed on the spot by Israeli police in the immediate wake of the attack.
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 during the 1967 Middle East War. It later annexed the holy city in 1980, claiming it as the capital of the self-proclaimed Jewish state – a move never recognized by the international community.
In September 2000, a visit to the site by controversial Israeli politician Ariel Sharon sparked what later became known as the “Second Intifada,” a popular uprising against the Israeli occupation in which thousands of Palestinians were killed.