Israeli settlers and extremists have once again stormed the al-Aqsa Mosque compound in the Israeli-occupied Old City of Jerusalem al-Quds as tensions continue to rise between Israeli forces and settlers, on the one hand, and Palestinian protesters, on the other.
On Sunday morning, dozens of illegal settlers forced their way into the holy site through the Bab al-Magharbeh under tight protection of several groups of Israeli soldiers and special police forces, Arabic-language Safa news agency reported.
While some of the settlers had Star of David top hats on, several others were wearing shorts, a piece of the clothing deemed inappropriate for a place of worship like a mosque. There was also a rabbi clad in black garments among the intruders.
The Israeli settlers and extremists converged near the Golden Gate, also known as the Gate of Mercy, on the eastern flank of the mosque and read Talmud verses out loud.
The settlers then left the al-Aqsa Mosque compound through Bab al-Selseleh, and took numerous provocative images.
The development came on the same day that nearly 1.5 million Muslims from across the world started to observe the Day of Arafat, which marks an occasion for repentance and supplication considered as the pinnacle of the annual Hajj pilgrimage.
Worshipers began their day-long prayers and recitals of the Holy Qur’an on Mount Arafat, which lies east of the Saudi city of Mecca.
The occupied Palestinian territories have witnessed new tensions ever since Israeli forces imposed restrictions on the entry of Palestinian worshipers into the al-Aqsa Mosque compound in East Jerusalem al-Quds in August 2015.
At least 236 Palestinians have lost their lives at the hands of Israeli forces in the tensions since the beginning of last October. The violence has also killed at least 32 Israelis, two Americans, an Eritrean and a Sudanese.
The Tel Aviv regime has tried to change the demographic makeup of Jerusalem al-Quds over the past decades by constructing illegal settlements, destroying historical sites and expelling the local Palestinian population. Palestinians say the Israeli measures are aimed at paving the way for the Judaization of the city.
The al-Aqsa Mosque compound is a flashpoint Islamic site, which is also holy to the Jews. The mosque is Islam’s third holiest site after Mecca and Medina in Saudi Arabia.