World, Middle East

Hardline Israelis 'storm' Al-Aqsa

Large group of Israelis tours Jerusalem holy site despite lack of permission from site's Muslim administrators

Hardline Israelis 'storm' Al-Aqsa FILE PHOTO

By Kaamil Ahmed


Further fueling tensions at the holy site, a large group of hardline Israelis "stormed" the compound of Jerusalem's Al-Aqsa Mosque on Thursday morning, according to officials at the scene.

In an unauthorized move, some 182 Israeli settlers entered the mosque compound, guarded by Israeli police, Firas al-Dibs, a media official in Jerusalem's Islamic Endowments Department (Waqf), said in a written statement.

The move came as Waqf officials and Muslim worshippers protest new metal detectors set up by Israeli security in the wake of a deadly shootout last Friday.

This week large groups have toured the Al-Aqsa site under unusual circumstances as employees of the Islamic Waqf, which manages the site and usually supervises morning visiting hours for non-Muslims, have refused to enter in protest of the metal detectors.

The site is considered exceptionally holy by both Muslims and Jews, who call it the Temple Mount, but only Muslims are allowed to worship there according to the "status quo" -- a delicate balance of prayer and visiting rights.

The Waqf objects to visits by large groups of religious Jews, as it accuses Israel of unilaterally resuming non-Muslim visits to the compound after they were suspended during the Second Intifada.

The visiting hours had previously been jointly coordinated by Israeli forces and Waqf officials.

Waqf officials and most Muslim worshippers have refused to enter the site since Sunday, protesting new metal detectors set up at its entrances in response to last week’s shootout, which left five people dead.

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