Palestinians on Tuesday staged a demonstration at East Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa Mosque compound to protest an Israeli decision temporarily banning five of the mosque’s Palestinian guards from entering the flashpoint religious site, Anadolu Agency reports.
Held outside the mosque compound’s Asbat Gate, the demonstration saw dozens of angry protesters chanting slogans against the Israeli decision.
On Sunday, Israeli police banned five of the mosque’s Palestinian guards from entering the Al-Aqsa compound for periods ranging from four to six months.
Addressing protesters on Tuesday, Al-Aqsa Director Sheikh Omar Kiswani said that both worshippers and the mosque’s caretakers — including guards — were facing frequent “oppression” at the hands of the Israeli authorities.
“We are currently consulting with lawyers as to how to challenge this blatant injustice,” Kiswani said.
According to Nasser Quss, director of the Palestinian Prisoners’ Association, a Jerusalem-based NGO, the Israeli authorities banned Palestinians — both guards and worshippers — from entering the mosque compound 100 times last year alone.
Al-Aqsa officials complain that Israeli police usually target the guards who stand up to Jewish settlers’ increasingly frequent incursions into the mosque complex.
“In regards to Al-Aqsa, the occupation likes to impose faits accomplis, changing rules that have remained in effect since Israel occupied East Jerusalem in 1967,” the banned guards said in a joint Monday statement.
For Muslims, the Al-Aqsa Mosque 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 Arab-Israeli War. It annexed the entire city in 1980, claiming it as the capital of the Jewish state — a move never recognized by the international community.