Israeli police, settlers storm Al-Aqsa forcing Muslim worshipers out of compound

Mohamed Hatem , Sunday 26 Mar 2023

Israeli settlers guarded by police broke into the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in occupied Jerusalem on sunday, shortly after police raided the holy site and forced Muslim worshippers who were staying there for worship out, reported the Islamic Waqf authority.

Al-Aqsa compound
Israeli forces members and special units at Al Aqsa compound. AFP


The Jordan-run Islamic Waqf authority, in charge of the holy site, said scores of Israeli settlers entered the compound through the Moroccan Gate in groups and performed rituals there under the protection of Israeli police officers.

Late on Saturday, Israeli police officers forcibly entered the compound and removed hundreds of Muslim worshipers, while also arresting at least two worshipers, Palestinian news agency WAFA reported.

On Sunday morning, Israeli forces were deployed in the compound and at its gates to secure the settlers' incursions, amid growing restrictions on worshipers entering the mosque.

Based on a joint agreement, the compound is administered by Jordan's Waqf, while Israel controls access to the holy site under the pretense of providing security.

Under a longstanding status quo, non-Muslims can visit the site at specific times but are not allowed to pray there.

In recent years, a growing number of Jews, most of them Israeli nationalists, have covertly prayed at the compound, a development decried by Palestinians as well as Western governments, which have warned that such moves threaten the fragile arrangement at Jerusalem's holy sites.

This was the latest episode in an ongoing wave of settler terrorism targeting the Palestinian communities in the occupied Jerusalem and the West Bank.

In middle of Saturday night, Israeli settlers set a Palestinian-owned house on fire in town of Sinjil, to the north of Ramallah in the central West Bank.

Witnesses told WAFA that the houseowner, Ahmad Maher Awashreh, 35, and his family, including children, were fortunately pulled out alive after four Israeli settlers threw incendiary bottles into the house.

The same night, extremist Israeli settlers pelted stones at Palestinian vehicles causing damage to some of them near the village of Deir Sharaf, to the west of Nablus, and blocked a junction in the northern Jordan Valley.

Israeli settler violence against Palestinians and their property is commonplace in the West Bank and is rarely prosecuted by Israeli authorities.

There are over 650,000 Israeli settlers illegally occupying portions of the West Bank in violation of international law and established norms prohibiting the relocation of the occupying power's civil population to the land of the occupied.

In same context, nine members of the Security Council criticised Israel's settlement activities in Palestinian territories and appealed for a de-escalation of Israeli-Palestinian tensions.

The parties urged "all sides to refrain from unilateral steps that escalate tensions (and) refrain from provocative actions and messages at this sensitive time," noting this season's convergence of religious holidays Ramadan, Passover and Easter.

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