JERUSALEM, July 21, 2015 (WAFA) – Six days after the fasting month of Ramadan characterized by Palestinian Muslims’ permanent presence in Al-Aqsa Mosque compound ended, Jewish settler groups called Wednesday all Jewish settlers to storm the holy site to mark Tisha B’Av Day.
This call came as dozens of Israeli settlers broke into Al-Aqsa Mosque compound via al-Maghareba Gate under the protection of Israeli forces and police. They toured the holy site, provoking a number of Palestinian Muslim worshipers, who shouted religious chants, expressing their anger at the settlers’ presence at the third holiest place in Islam.
Police forces reportedly detained three Palestinians, including two women, while existing the compound via the al-Selselah Gate.
Director of Al-Aqsa Mosque Sheikh Omar al-Kiswani was reportedly told local media that 95 settlers stormed and toured the Mosque compound.
He said that female police officers attempted to detain a Palestinian woman, sparking an altercation between the worshippers and police and eventually increasing tensions at the site.
These groups were allowed entry into the mosque compound by Israeli police who re-imposed restrictions on Palestinains’ entry into the holy site, including withholding their identity cards until they leave the Mosque.
This came as Jewish settler groups, known as ‘Temple Mount’ organizations, recently called for the site to be closed to Palestinians during the Jewish holiday of ‘Tisha B’Av Day’ commemorating the ‘destruction of the temple’ and settlers to break into the site to celebrate re-opening it to them following the end of Ramadan.
Tisha B’Av, which means “the ninth of the month of Av’, commences on Saturday, July 25 and ends on Sunday 26. This day is marked by fasting and mourning by Jews to commemorate what they believe was the destruction of the temples that stood in the place of the Al-Aqsa Mosque. They also pray on this day for the rebuilding of the ‘temple’ in this spot.
Warning about imminent rising tensions and instability, al-Kiswani said that the calls made by the ‘Temple Mount’ organizations are intended to provoke the feelings of Muslims in general and worshippers inside the compound in particular.
According to a 1967 agreement the Israeli authorities made after occupying Jerusalem, only Muslim Palestinians are allowed in the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound while Jewish prayer is allowed at the Western Wall next door.
However, in recent months the right-wing Jewish groups who have previously called for the destruction of the Mosque and the construction of a Jewish temple on the site have repeatedly entered the area under heavy police escort.
The visits, combined with proposals for a Knesset vote to divide the site between Jews and Muslims, have outraged the Palestinian public, which sees the encroachment on Al-Aqsa as symptomatic of the wider denial of their rights in historic Palestine as well as intense discrimination in housing, employment, and social services by Israeli authorities.
The compound, which sits just above the Western Wall plaza, houses both the Dome of the Rock and 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.
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.
The site has been at the heart of unrest in recent months as Palestinian protester took to the streets over frequent and increasing Jewish visitors to the holy compound.
Palestinians worry that if Jewish visitors were allowed to pray in the holy al-Aqsa Mosque’s yards daily, it would eventually lead to a permanent change, which will result in full Israeli control and ban on Muslims’ entry and prayer.
The fear stems from ongoing Israeli policy which prevents Palestinians living in the West Bank from obtaining permits to enter Jerusalem to pray at Al-Aqsa Mosque and many restrictions on Jerusalemites’ entrance to the holy Compound, including holding their identity cards until they leave the Mosque.
Settlers’ provocative visits to the holy site have given rise to mass protests in the holy city in recent months, during which hundreds of Palestinians were apprehended by Israeli police.