Dozens of Jewish settlers under Israeli police protection have forced their way into the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in occupied East Jerusalem, a Palestinian guard at the holy site said Monday.
"At least 49 settlers protected by ten Israeli special forces troops stormed the compound early this morning," the guard told Anadolu Agency on condition of anonymity.
According to the guard, the settlers forced their way into the compound through the Al-Magharbeh Gate and toured the complex for 15 minutes before departing through the Al-Silisleh Gate.
Israeli police, meanwhile, allowed male Palestinian Muslim worshippers to enter the compound, while banning the entry of women.
"For three hours, I tried to enter the holy compound from several gates. Each time, I was denied access by the Israeli police," one woman barred from entering the complex told Anadolu Agency.
"They are trying to keep us out of the place so as to facilitate the [Jewish] settlers' intrusion," the woman, requesting anonymity, added. "But it won't work – every day, we thwart their plots."
Tension has been running high in East Jerusalem since Israel closed the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound late last month week following the shooting of an extremist rabbi in west Jerusalem.
The closure of Al-Aqsa, along with the killing of a young Palestinian man suspected of shooting the rabbi, has fueled angry protests by Palestinians in East Jerusalem.
On Wednesday, an Israeli police officer was killed when a Palestinian driver ran over a group of Israeli pedestrians in East Jerusalem.
The Palestinian motorist who ran them over was shot and killed by Israeli police in the immediate wake of the attack.
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 during the 1967 Middle East War. It later annexed the holy city in 1980, claiming it as the capital of the self-proclaimed Jewish state – a move never recognized by the international community.
In September 2000, a visit to the site by controversial Israeli politician Ariel Sharon sparked what later became known as the "Second Intifada," a popular uprising against the Israeli occupation in which thousands of Palestinians were killed.