JERUSALEM : Hundreds of Israeli settlers on Sunday forced their way into the flashpoint Al-Aqsa Mosque complex in occupied East Jerusalem to celebrate the Yom Kippur holiday.
In a brief statement, the Jordan-run Islamic Waqf Department said 317 settlers raided the site under police protection early Sunday.
Israeli police installed security barriers in Jerusalem’s Old City and prevented Palestinians from reaching the mosque, witnesses said.
Yom Kippur is considered the holiest day in the Jewish calendar. It is traditionally observed with a day-long fast and special services at synagogues.
Israeli Jewish holiday season started on Sept. 15 with observing the Rosh Hashanah (New Year) holiday. They will also mark the Sukkot holiday at the end of September and the Simhat Torah holiday on Oct. 6.
Israeli settler groups have called on supporters to converge on the Al-Aqsa complex to mark the Yom Kippur holiday.
On Friday, Israel decided to seal off the Palestinian territories for the Yom Kippur holiday, which began Saturday midnight and will end on Tuesday.
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, where Al-Aqsa complex is located, during the 1967 Arab-Israeli War. It annexed the entire city in 1980 in a move never recognized by the international community. — AA