JERUSALEM (AA) – Hundreds of Jewish settlers on Thursday stormed the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in East Jerusalem for the fourth day in a row, according to a Palestinian official.
“Over 930 settlers and police officers raided the mosque compound, where they performed Talmudic rituals,” Firas al-Dibs, a spokesman for Jerusalem’s Religious Endowments Authority (a Jordan-run organization responsible for overseeing the city’s Muslim and Christian holy sites), told Anadolu Agency.
“Since early this morning, settlers have forced their way into the compound through the Al-Mugharbah Gate and left through the Al-Silsila gate,” he said.
According to al-Dibs, dozens more Jewish settlers are expected to converge on Al-Aqsa later today.
Al-Dibs said “dozens” of Israeli policemen had been deployed inside the Al-Aqsa compound and outside its gates.
“Police have also restricted the entry of Palestinian Muslim worshipers into the mosque by confiscating their ID cards at the compound’s entrances,” he said.
Since last Friday, over 2,700 Israeli settlers and policemen have entered the compound to mark the weeklong Jewish holiday of Sukkot, which will end on Sunday.
Tension has mounted in the Palestinian territories — including occupied East Jerusalem, where the Al-Aqsa is located — since U.S. President Donald Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital earlier this year.
For Muslims, Al-Aqsa represents the world's third holiest site. Jews, for their part, refer to the area as the "Temple Mount", claiming it was the site of two Jewish temples in ancient times.
– West Bank arrests
In a related development, the Israeli army rounded up 11 Palestinians from their homes across the occupied West Bank in overnight raids, according to an Israeli army statement released Thursday morning.
According to the statement, the individuals were detained for what the army described as “suspected involvement in popular terrorist activities”.
The statement did not elaborate as to the precise meaning of “popular terrorist activities”.
Detained Palestinians have since been remanded into custody for further investigation, according to the army.
Israel frequently conducts sweeping arrest campaigns across the occupied territories on the pretext of searching for “wanted” Palestinians.
According to Palestinian figures, some 6,500 Palestinians are currently languishing in Israeli prisons, including scores of women, some 350 minors and at least six lawmakers.
Israel occupied East Jerusalem during the 1967 Middle East War. It annexed the entire city in 1980, claiming it as the capital of the Jewish state in a move never recognized by the international community.