Israeli police have temporarily banned 23 Palestinians from entering East Jerusalem’s flashpoint Al-Aqsa Mosque complex during Passover, a Palestinian source said Monday — the fist day of the weeklong Jewish holiday.
“Within the last two days, Israeli police banned a total of 23 Palestinians from entering the Al-Aqsa complex for periods ranging from two weeks to three months,” Nasser Qaws, director of the Palestinian Prisoners’ Society in Jerusalem, told Anadolu Agency.
“Most of those temporarily banned from the site are residents of Jerusalem’s Old City,” he said.
The temporary ban, Qaws said, “is meant to coincide with the Jewish Passover holiday, during which extremist Jewish groups are calling on followers to converge on Al-Aqsa in large numbers”.
In a statement, Israeli police spokeswoman Luba al-Samri said the Palestinians had been temporarily banned from the area because they had “intended to disrupt public order during the holiday”.
Israeli police frequently allow extremist Jewish settlers to enter the Al-Aqsa complex in large numbers, a policy that occasionally leads to clashes with Palestinian Muslim worshipers.
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.
Some extremist Jewish groups have called for the demolition of the Al-Aqsa Mosque so that a Jewish temple might be built in its place.
In September 2000, a visit to the flashpoint religious site by late Israeli politician Ariel Sharon sparked what later became known as the “Second Intifada,” a popular Palestinian uprising in which thousands of people were killed.
Israel occupied East Jerusalem — in which the Al-Aqsa is located — during the 1967 Middle East War. It later annexed the entire city in 1980, unilaterally claiming it as the capital of the self-proclaimed Jewish state.
Passover, which commemorates the Israelites’ exodus from Egypt during the time of Prophet Moses, is considered one of the most important holidays on the Jewish religious calendar.