JERUSALEM (Ma'an) -- Hundreds of right-wing Israelis entered the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound on Sunday, amid ongoing restrictions on Palestinian freedom of worship and movement in occupied East Jerusalem on the sixth day of the Jewish holiday of Passover.
Islamic Endowment (Waqf) director Sheikh Azzam al-Khatib told Ma'an that 517 Israelis entered the compound during the designated visitation periods in the morning and the afternoon, a number of whom performed Jewish religious rituals in contravention of agreements regarding the Al-Aqsa compound under the protection of heavily deployed Israeli forces.
Meanwhile, al-Khatib added, Israeli forces imposed strict restrictions on Muslims’ access to the Al-Aqsa compound. Some Muslim worshipers were allowed to enter after Israeli police officers seized their identity cards at police posts outside the compound, while others were denied entry.
Israeli police spokeswoman Luba al-Samri said in a statement on Sunday afternoon that a total of 1,918 visitors toured the compound, of whom 1,427 were foreign Jewish and Christian tourists.
She added that Israeli police evacuated two Jewish visitors who violated visitation rules.
Severe restrictions are typically implemented by Israeli authorities onto Palestinians during Jewish holidays for alleged security purposes.
“For (Palestinian) Jerusalemites, the Jewish holiday season means an escalation in arbitrary detentions, house raids, and searches -- measures that terrify families. The installation of additional security checkpoints, particularly at the Al-Aqsa Mosque (compound)’s gates and in the Old City, only increase tensions in Jerusalem,” Palestinian Prisoners’ Society (PPS) head in Jerusalem Nadi Qaws told Ma’an last week.
Leading up to the start of Passover, Israeli forces detained at least 30 Palestinians
during raids in East Jerusalem and banned them from the Al-Aqsa Mosque, while three Palestinians from northern Israel were also banned from the holy site over a Facebook post related to Passover, amid a security crackdown imposed by Israel for the holiday.
While Jewish visitation is permitted to the Al-Aqsa compound, non-Muslim worship is prohibited according to an agreement signed between Israel and the Jordanian government after Israel’s occupation of East Jerusalem in 1967.
Despite this agreement, Israeli authorities regularly allow Jewish visitors to enter the site and carry out religious worship -- often under armed guard.Such visits spark frustration among Palestinians who see the incursions as a direct threat to Palestinian sovereignty and any potential for a future independent Palestinian state, which has been effectively marred by increasing settler presence across Palestinian land.
Meanwhile, Israeli forces have almost entirely sealed the occupied West Bank
-- excluding urgent humanitarian cases -- for more than a week for Passover, preventing scores of Palestinians with Israeli-issued permits to access their jobs in Jerusalem and Israel.
The closures do not apply to Israeli settlers residing illegally in the West Bank.