JERUSALEM (Ma’an) – Dozens of Israeli Jews on Wednesday entered the courtyards of al-Aqsa Mosque under heavy protection of Israeli forces which prevented Palestinian worshipers from accessing the mosque for prayer.
Police also denied Knesset member Moshe Feiglin access to the compound. Feiglin on Tuesday called upon Israelis to head to the al-Aqsa compound on the occasion of the Jewish Passover festival.
Moshe "Feiglin wanted to visit the Temple Mount this morning, police prevented him to make sure there would be no public disorder," spokesman Micky Rosenfeld told AFP.
"We knew that if he went up there there would be problems in terms of public order," he added.
Feiglin, a hardline settler who leads an extreme nationalist faction within the Likud party of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, won a parliamentary seat in the January general election.
He was arrested in October for disturbing the peace at the compound, known as the Haram al-Sharif by Muslims. It is the third holiest site in Islam and revered as Judaism's most sacred place.
According to Sheikh Azzam al-Khatib, 112 Israeli settlers entered the courtyards of al-Aqsa at 7:30 a.m. via the Moroccan Gate. He pointed out that large numbers of Israeli police officers deployed in the compound.
Al-Khatib added that the Palestinian endowment ministry and the Jordanian embassy to Palestine contacted Israeli police warning of the consequences if Feiglin enters al-Aqsa area. As a result, he said, Israeli police denied Feiglin access.
Israeli soldiers, added al-Khatib, kicked several young worshipers out of the compound while many others were denied access.
Eyewitnesses said there was some physical contact between young Palestinians and ultra-Orthodox Jews near the Chain Gate while the Jews were leaving the compound.
For his part, Sheikh Abdul-Atheem Salahab, head of the endowment council, told Ma’an that Israeli forces allowed dozens of settlers to enter the al-Aqsa compound, while Palestinian worshipers were denied access. He described the Israeli procedures as “state terror” violating freedom of worship.
“This is a systematic policy of an extremist Israeli government targeting al-Aqsa and trying to impose new facts on the ground by allowing settlers to break into the mosque and profane it.”
Similarly, Sheikh Muhammad Hussein, the Grand Mufti of the Holy Land, warned of Israeli attempts to impose new facts on the ground.
However, he said, worshipers who come to pray in al-Aqsa Mosque every day are aware of the Israeli plans, and so neither the Israeli government, nor the settlers will be able to achieve their goal of dividing the mosque.