October saw a record number of Jewish settlers enter Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in occupied East Jerusalem, with Israeli police relaxing restrictions on prayer and rituals by Temple Mount activists.
According to Haaretz, over the three-week period of Jewish holidays (3-25 October), more than 3,000 Jews visited the compound, "most" of whom "seemed to be part of the core group of Temple Mount activists."
"During the week of Sukkot alone," the paper reported, "more than 1,600 Jews visited the Temple Mount compound for religious purposes after undergoing ritual immersion." Yesterday, "a group of Israeli soldiers in uniform visited the compound, the first such group in a long time."
The police were "more flexible about allowing Jewish worshippers into the compound" because the compound was "relatively quiet over the holiday period", says Haaretz.
"For example, in contrast to last year, the police allowed larger groups to enter and permitted more than one group of worshippers to be in the compound simultaneously." On 18 October, there were more than 400 religious Jews on the Mount at the same time."
Haaretz says Jewish visitors "reported a certain relaxation of the restrictions on prayer and religious rituals in the compound."
Israeli police "did not interrupt anyone who was praying quietly on their own", and "in a number of instances Jews were even allowed to enter the compound carrying the four species central to the observance of Sukkot."
Temple Mount activists welcomed the developments, claiming that "the police have gone back to exercising restraint and stopped harassing non-public prayers", adding: "As a result, many Jews were able to pray on the Temple Mount quietly."
The paper notes that "more than 11,000 Jews have visited the compound for religious purposes since the beginning of 2016, similar to the number of Jews who visited during all of 2015." The current record for the number of Jewish visitors in a year is 11,754, set in 2014.
In a separate development, it was reported today that Israeli police have recommended Members of Knesset be reallowed to enter the compound, based on certain conditions – such as no media presence, and no bodyguards. The final decision, however, lies with Benjamin Netanyahu.