JERUSALEM : Dozens of Israeli settlers on Tuesday forced their way into the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in occupied East Jerusalem during the Jewish holiday of Passover, according to eyewitnesses.
The eyewitnesses said Israeli police escorted groups of settlers into the Al-Aqsa courtyard through the Mughrabi Gate in the western wall of the mosque.
Israeli police forces were deployed in the courtyards of the mosque before the raids, while some police officers climbed the roof of the Al-Qibli Mosque.
Earlier, the Israeli police prevented Palestinians under the age of 50 from entering Al-Aqsa Mosque to perform prayers, eyewitnesses told Anadolu.
Dozens of Palestinians performed the morning prayer on the streets leading to Al-Aqsa Mosque after being prevented from entering the courtyard.
On Monday, the Islamic Endowments Department in Jerusalem said that 1,531 settlers stormed Al-Aqsa Mosque on the Jewish Passover holiday, which continues until April 12.
Tensions escalated across Palestinian territories after Israeli forces stormed the Al-Aqsa Mosque complex in East Jerusalem and forcibly removed worshippers last week.
The Israeli raids on the mosque triggered rocket fire from the Gaza Strip and Lebanon, with Israel retaliating with airstrikes.
Palestinians accuse Israel of systematically working to Judaize East Jerusalem, where Al-Aqsa is located, and obliterate its Arab and Islamic identity.
For Muslims, Al-Aqsa represents the world’s third-holiest site. Jews, for their part, call the area the Temple Mount, saying it was the site of two ancient Jewish temples.
Israel occupied East Jerusalem during the 1967 Arab-Israeli War. It annexed the entire city in 1980 in a move never recognized by the international community. — AA