Jewish groups enter Al-Aqsa under armed guard
Published Thursday 05/12/2013 (updated) 06/12/2013 18:48
JERUSALEM (Ma'an) -- Rightist Israeli Jewish groups entered the Al-Aqsa compound early Thursday escorted by police, surrounding Palestinian worshipers in the southern mosque and setting off fireworks, witnesses told Ma'an.
Witnesses said that a group of extremists led by Yehuda Glick, an American-born Israeli Jewish Rabbi who chairs the Temple Mount Heritage Fund, entered the mosque compound through the Moroccan Gate.
The Jewish groups, described by witnesses as "settlers," then continued to tour the Al-Aqsa compound.
Additionally, Israeli police imposed restrictions on Palestinian worshipers, checking their identity cards at the gates.
A Palestinian journalist told Ma'an that Israeli police confiscated his identity card and press card when he attempted to enter the Al-Aqsa compound early Thursday.
Muhammad Shalabi said that Israeli police sent him to the police station to retrieve his cards, and that when he arrived, he was told he was banned from returning to the compound for a month.
Israeli police also interrogated Abdullah al-Sanjlawi and banned him from returning to Al-Aqsa for a month, witnesses said.
The Al-Aqsa Foundation said Tuesday that Jewish organizations, without naming them, had submitted an application to Israeli ministers to erect a Hanukkah candle in the Al-Aqsa compound.
In early November, an Israeli parliamentary committee held a heated debate on whether to begin allowing Jews to pray on the compound housing the Al-Aqsa mosque.
Due to the sensitive nature of the Al-Aqsa mosque, Israel maintains a compromise with the Islamic trust that controls the compound to restrict the area for Muslim prayers.
Israeli forces, however, regularly escort Jewish visitors to the site, leading to tension with Palestinian worshipers.
The compound, which sits just above the Western Wall plaza, houses both the Dome of the Rock and the Al-Aqsa mosque and is the third holiest site in Islam.
It is also venerated as Judaism's most holy place as it sits where Jews believe the First and Second Temples once stood. The Second Temple was destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD.
According to mainstream Jewish religious leaders, Jews are forbidden from entering for fear they would profane the "Holy of Holies," or the inner sanctum of the Second Temple.
Al-Aqsa is located in East Jerusalem, a part of the internationally recognized Palestinian territories that have been occupied by the Israeli military since 1967.