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Israeli settlers take to Al-Aqsa in Jerusalem, Palestinian guard detained

Dec. 28, 2016 3:41 P.M. (Updated: Dec. 28, 2016 3:41 P.M.)
JERUSALEM (Ma'an) -- Dozens of Israeli settlers and Jewish worshipers took to the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in occupied East Jerusalem on Wednesday in celebration of the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah, while Israeli authorities detained a Palestinian from the site.

Rami al-Khatib, a public relations representative for Islamic Endowment, or Waqf, that manages the holy site said that 176 Israeli settlers raided the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound via the Moroccan Gate under strict security escort by Israeli forces between 7 and 10:30 a.m.

Witnesses told Ma’an that a group of Israeli settlers also attempted to carry out religious rituals, but were prevented by Al-Aqsa's guards.

Sources told Ma’an that Israeli forces also detained a guard, who was identified as Fadi Bakir.

Israeli visits to the compound have increased over the past week in time for the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah.

Severe restrictions on movement for Palestinians are typically implemented at the holy site by Israeli authorities for alleged security purposes, particularly during Jewish holidays. Meanwhile, tensions around Al-Aqsa Mosque were a main contributor to increasing unrest that began in October 2015, after right-wing Israelis made frequent visits to the site during the Jewish high holiday season.

The compound, which sits just above the Western Wall plaza, houses both the Dome of the Rock and the Al-Aqsa Mosque.

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. The Second Temple was destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD.

While Jewish visitation is permitted to the compound, non-Muslim worship is prohibited according to an agreement signed between Israel and the Jordanian government after Israel’s illegal occupation of East Jerusalem in 1967.

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