Israeli police closed the al-Aqsa sanctuary to visitors on Thursday following a number of clashes within the holy site, resulting from extremist Israelis attempting to trespass into the area. On Wednesday, clashes took place when a number of Israelis forced their way into the compound and were confronted by worshippers. The attack followed a facebook campaign by the extremist group encouraging others to join them.
The decision to close Al-Aqsa to visitors came as the threats against the compound have intensified in recent weeks, and this marks the start of a curb on access to the holy site venerated by Palestinians and Muslims worldwide. While security concerns have been cited, Palestinians are concerned that Israel may use this as a guise to prevent legitimate worshippers from accessing the holy site. Such concerns arise from past experiences at other religious sites such as the Ibrahimi Masjid in Khalil to which Palestinians now have extremely limited access.
On Friday, following the Jummuah prayers, hundreds of Palestinians held a peaceful demonstration within the compound as a sign of their resilience against Israeli threats.
"We are currently witnessing a severe escalation of attacks on the blessed sanctuary. Israeli MPs, illegal settlers and Zionist tourists now violate the sanctity of the al-Aqsa sanctuary on a regular basis, safe in the knowledge that their actions will not be contested and that they will enjoy the security of occupying Israeli forces," stated Ismail Patel, Chair of Friends of Al-Aqsa.
Concerns have been voices by the Jordanian government, and the Foreign Minister of the state summoned Israel's Ambassador for urgent discussions about the safety of Al-Aqsa. Other governments in the region are expected to also voice concern. Palestinians have also called on the international community to speak out, as silence amounts to complicity. Meaningful and effective steps are needed to pressure Israel into respecting the Palestinian heritage within the Holy al-Aqsa sanctuary.
Friends of Al-Aqsa