World, Middle East

Settlers enter Al-Aqsa in force to mark Jewish holiday

Meanwhile, army locks down West Bank for Jewish ‘day of atonement’

Settlers enter Al-Aqsa in force to mark Jewish holiday


Hundreds of Jewish settlers and Israeli police forced their way into East Jerusalem's flashpoint Al-Aqsa Mosque compound on Tuesday to mark the Jewish Yom Kippur holiday, according to a Palestinian official.

“Since morning, almost 300 Jewish settlers, backed by police, stormed the mosque compound through the Al-Magharbeh Gate,” Firas al-Dibs, a spokesman for Jerusalem’s Jordan-run Religious Endowments Authority, told Anadolu Agency.

“Settlers toured the complex, passing by the Al-Qibali and Dome of the Rock mosques, where they performed Talmudic rituals -- including dances -- before departing through the Al-Silsila Gate,” he said.

Al-Dibs also said the Israeli authorities had restricted the entry of Muslim worshipers into the compound while allowing settlers to freely enter the site.

At one point, he added, Israeli police had assaulted employees of the Religious Endowments Authority, which is mandated with overseeing East Jerusalem’s Muslim and Christian holy sites.

“Five Palestinians were arrested during the melee, while four others were assaulted and later treated inside the compound,” al-Dibs said.

Earlier this week, Jewish extremist groups called on supporters to converge on Al-Aqsa on Tuesday and Wednesday to mark the Jewish Yom Kippur holiday.

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.

Israel occupied East Jerusalem -- in which the Al-Aqsa is located -- during the 1967 Middle East War. In 1980, Israel unilaterally annexed the entire city, claiming it as its “eternal and undivided” capital.

In a related development, the Israeli army has imposed a general closure on the occupied West Bank and the blockaded Gaza Strip for the duration of the Yom Kippur holiday, the army said in a statement.

According to the statement, all checkpoints between Israel and the West Bank and between Israel and Gaza will remain closed -- except for urgent “humanitarian” cases -- from Tuesday to Thursday.

“During this period, Palestinians are prohibited from entering Israel for any reason, including for work,” the statement read.

The army is expected to impose another general closure on the West Bank and Gaza during the upcoming Jewish Sukkot holiday from Sept. 23 to Oct. 1.

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