Scores of Israeli settlers storm Al-Aqsa complex in Jerusalem
91 settlers break into flashpoint site under police protection, says Palestinian agency
Scores of Israeli settlers on Wednesday forced their way into the Al-Aqsa Mosque complex in occupied East Jerusalem, according to a Palestinian agency.
The Islamic Endowment Department in Jerusalem said in a statement that 91 settlers guarded by Israeli police broke into the flashpoint site.
Eyewitnesses told Anadolu Agency that some of the settlers performed religious rituals upon their arrival at the eastern side of the mosque. Israeli police did not prevent the ritual as it usually hinders Jews from praying in the courtyards of Al-Aqsa Mosque.
Usually, Israeli settlers storm the Al-Aqsa complex every day in the morning and afternoon through its Al-Mughrabi Gate, southwest of the mosque.
The Islamic Endowment Department in Jerusalem has repeatedly warned of the danger of allowing settlers to perform religious rituals at the site.
On July 18, Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said that the freedom of worship for Jews and Muslims "must be preserved" inside Al-Aqsa complex, drawing Palestinian and Arab condemnations.
Meanwhile, Israeli police detained two Palestinians and two women in the vicinity of Al-Aqsa, according to a local official and eyewitnesses.
An official with the Islamic Endowment Department, who preferred not to be named, told Anadolu Agency that the two men were detained in the vicinity of one of the Al-Aqsa gates, without explaining the reasons for the arrest.
Two women were also arrested in the same area after being beaten by police, witnesses said.
Israeli police began allowing the settler incursions in 2003, despite repeated condemnations from the Islamic Endowment Department.
Al-Aqsa Mosque is the world's third-holiest site for Muslims. Jews call the area the Temple Mount, claiming it was the site of two Jewish temples in ancient times.
Israel occupied East Jerusalem, where Al-Aqsa is located, during the 1967 Arab-Israeli War. It annexed the entire city in 1980, a move never recognized by the international community.
*Writing by Mahmoud Barakat in Ankara