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Hundreds of Israelis take to Al-Aqsa for Jewish holiday of Sukkot

Oct. 8, 2017 1:07 P.M. (Updated: Oct. 8, 2017 5:34 P.M.)
JERUSALEM (Ma’an) -- Between 200 and 300 right-wing Israelis and settlers escorted by Israeli police took to the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in occupied East Jerusalem's Old City on Sunday morning amid the Jewish holiday of Sukkot.

Groups started to enter the walled holy site through the Moroccan Gate entrance at around 7 a.m., with a number of Israelis performing Jewish rituals as Israeli forces imposed strict restrictions on the entry of Muslim worshipers.

Meanwhile, by midday, thousands of of Jewish worshipers prayed at the Western Wall, located adjacent to Al-Aqsa, with hundreds of police forces deployed in the area.

Following Israel's illegal annexation of East Jerusalem in 1967, Israel has maintained a compromise with the Islamic Endowment to not allow non-Muslim prayer in the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound. However, some Jewish worshipers regularly breach the agreement, particularly during the Jewish high holidays.

The Al-Aqsa Mosque 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.

Tensions around the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound were a main contributor to the increasing unrest that erupted in October 2015, after right-wing Israelis made frequent visits to the site during a succession of Jewish holidays.

Meanwhile, ahead of the beginning of Sukkot, Israel announced an unprecedented 11-day general closure for both the West Bank and Gaza -- during which only humanitarian, medical, and exceptional cases were to be allowed to exit or enter -- between Oct. 4 and Oct. 14.

Israel regularly imposes closures on the West Bank and Gaza for Jewish holidays, but week-long festivals like Sukkot usually only have closures imposed at the end of the holiday, lasting a few days.

The extended closure was reportedly approved by Lieberman as a result of a deadly shooting attack at an illegal Israeli settlement two weeks ago, committed by a Palestinian from the West Bank who had a permit to work in illegal settlements.

Severe restrictions on movement for Palestinians are typically implemented by Israeli authorities during Jewish holidays for alleged security purposes, accompanied by increased tensions around the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound.
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