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Right-wing Israeli groups tour Al-Aqsa on Passover amid crackdown on Palestinians

April 12, 2017 5:49 P.M. (Updated: April 13, 2017 10:34 A.M.)
JERUSALEM (Ma'an) -- Right-wing Israelis and settlers took to the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound on Tuesday, as hundreds more foreign tourists toured the site, amid ongoing security restrictions on Palestinians in occupied East Jerusalem for the Jewish holiday of Passover.

Thousands of Israeli police were deployed across the city to provide protection for Israelis, including the 291 "extremist settlers" who toured the holy site in groups of 30 to 35 between 7:30 and 11 a.m., according to the Islamic Endowment (Waqf) that manages the compound.

Islamic Endowment spokesman Firas al-Dibs said some of the "intruders" performed religious rites inside the compound, and were evacuated by security guards for violating agreements regarding non-Muslim worship at the site.

Israeli police spokeswoman Luba al-Samri said a statement that “three Jewish visitors were evacuated from the compound after they violated visitation rules,” adding that a total of 1,841 visitors, included 1,481 foreign tourists -- both Jewish and Christian, entered the compound throughout the day.

Islamic Endowment director Sheikh Azzam al-Khatib said dozens of settlers performed religious rituals at the Chain Gate as they left the compound, while some affixed posters about "Jewish ascension to the Temple Mount,” referring to the Jewish term for the compound.

Al-Khatib denounced Israeli police's "iron fist" policy on security measures throughout the week-long Jewish holiday, which has seen some 40 Muslim Palestinians detained, interrogated, and banned from Al-Aqsa, some for periods as long as three or six months, which will overlap with the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

He said he sent a letter to the Jordanian Minister of the Islamic Endowment to update him on the "unprecedented settler incursions" into Al-Aqsa amid the arbitrary detentions of Palestinians.

Director of the compound Sheikh Omar al-Kiswani also deplored the visits, affirming that "what occupiers do behind the barrel of a gun does not give them rights to Al-Aqsa Mosque."

Meanwhile, the Palestinian Ministry of Foreign Affairs criticized “the escalation of raids conducted by Jewish extremist groups” for being part of wider policy of suppression of Palestinians by the Israeli occupation of East Jerusalem.

“These raids are conducted in response to demands made amid Passover by Israeli groups that support the establishment of Solomon Temple on the ruins of Al-Aqsa Mosque,” the statement read, referring to a trend of right-wing Israelis who openly call for the destruction of the mosque to make room for a Jewish temple, as Al-Aqsa sits where Jews believe their First and Second Temples once stood.

The ministry argued that Israel sought to turn an ongoing political conflict into a religious one, and warned that Israel’s violations would have harsh consequences for the region at large. “We stand witness to the Israeli occupation’s racist calls to spread a culture of extremism rather than peace."

The statement affirmed that international community and United Nations faced a critical test to ensure regional peace and security and hold Israel accountable regarding ongoing violations toward Palestinians, their land, and their holy sites.
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