JERUSALEM, August 3, 2016 (WAFA) – Israeli police Wednesday morning detained four Islamic Waqf staff from inside Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, said WAFA correspondent.
Police detained four staff of the rehabilitation committee of the Islamic Endowment (Waqf), which manages the flashpoint mosque compound.
The detainees were identified as director of the rehabilitation committee Bassam al-Hallaq, Issa Salhab, Bahaa Abu Sbeih and Saed Abu Sneina. They were taken to a detention and interrogation center outside Jerusalem’s Old City.
Police stormed the mosque compound and ordered the staff to halt restoration work on the Dome of the Rock’s arabesques and interior mosaics before detaining them.
The detention came as groups of Israeli settlers forced their way into the mosque compound via the Moroccan Gate.
Settlers reportedly performed religious rituals, including prostrations, and provoked Palestinian worshippers at the compound.
This prompted police to escort three settlers outside of the mosque compound.
This came as Jewish settler groups, known as ‘Temple Mount’ organizations, recently called for mass intrusions in anticipation of the Jewish holiday of ‘Tisha B’Av Day’ commemorating the ‘destruction of the temple’.
Tisha B’Av, which means “the ninth of the month of Av’, commences on Saturday, August 13 and ends on Sunday August 14. 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.
Settlers’ prayers at the compound violates a an agreement signed between Israel and Jordan following the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza in 1967.
Jewish settler groups’ persistent calls for the destruction of the mosque and the construction of a Jewish temple on the site combined with proposals for a Knesset vote to divide the site between Jews and Muslims have outraged the Palestinian public.
Palestinian public 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.