RAMALLAH: Tensions rose in the West Bank and East Jerusalem on Sunday after more than 2,000 settlers stormed Al-Aqsa Mosque amid tight Israeli police protection throughout the Old City and at the gates leading to the mosque.
Hundreds of settlers will participate in the incursion to revive the so-called “destruction of the temple.”
They had gathered since Saturday evening in the Old City and its surroundings before reaching the Western Wall/Al-Buraq, ahead of their overnight preparation for the incursions, with the participation of far-right Knesset member Itamar Ben Gvir.
At dawn on Sunday, Israeli police stopped people under 50 from entering Al-Aqsa to prevent them from confronting the settlers. An arrest campaign was launched on Saturday night, with at least six young men targeted.
The settlers began storming the courtyards of Al-Aqsa in successive groups, with the first group of 50 provided by extremist Yehuda Glick.
Israeli police deployed members of its special units in the courtyards to provide guards for the intruders, keep Palestinians away from the path of the incursions, and prevent their movement during the tours.
Settlers raised the Israeli flag while storming the courtyards.
They organized dancing and singing sessions near the Al-Silsila Gate from the outside. There were also tours and prayers at all the gates of Al-Aqsa from the outside.
Several settlers prostrated themselves in the courtyards of Al-Aqsa, as Muslim worshippers confronted the intruders and their provocations.
A statement from the Islamic Awqaf, which is affiliated with Jordan and in charge of Al-Aqsa, was signed by other Islamic commissions in Jerusalem and obtained by Arab News.
It said: “In an attempt to change the religious, legal, and historical status of the blessed Al-Aqsa Mosque/Al-Haram Al-Sharif, the occupation authorities and their police and intelligence forces turned this morning, Sunday, the blessed Al-Aqsa Mosque into a military barracks to secure the storming of groups of Jewish extremists to the premises of the blessed Al-Aqsa Mosque, after their calls to mobilize large numbers to storm the mosque in remembrance of the so-called ‘Destruction of the Temple.’”
According to the Islamic Awqaf, about 2,176 Jewish extremists stormed the courtyards under the protection of the Israeli police and intelligence forces who secured their tours, dances, singing, and laying down as part of their rituals in an apparent provocation to the feelings of Muslims, in return for emptying the mosque of worshippers, pursuing several young men and women, forcibly expelling them outside the mosque, arresting a number of them, and preventing the entry of a large number of worshippers.
The Palestinian Foreign Ministry said it held the Israeli government fully and directly responsible for its ongoing aggression against Christian and Islamic holy sites, the foremost of which was Al-Aqsa, and for its repercussions and dangers on the conflict and the entire region.