Israeli rightists enter Al-Aqsa under armed guard

Several large Israeli groups entered the Al-Aqsa mosque compound early Thursday escorted by Israeli police.

Sheikh Azzam al-Khatib, the director of Islamic endowment and mosque affairs, said that over 152 right-wing Israelis entered the mosque compound via the Moroccan Gate, before touring the area and leaving.

A group of 30 right-wing Israelis performed religious rituals near the Golden Gate under armed guard, a Ma'an reporter said, with scuffles breaking out between Palestinian worshipers and Israeli police. 

Extremist Yehuda Glick, an American-born Israeli and the chairman of the Temple Mount Heritage Fund, participated in the tour.

Al-Khatib denounced the raid and said the situation at the Al-Aqsa compound is deteriorating daily, with Israeli authorities trying to impose a new reality in terms of control of the holy site.

Meanwhile, Israeli police prevented dozens of students from entering Al-Aqsa mosque. Some students were allowed in but had to leave their Identity Cards with Israeli guards at the gates. 

In early November, an Israeli parliamentary committee held a heated debate on whether to begin allowing Jews to pray on the compound housing the Al-Aqsa mosque.

Israeli deputy religious affairs minister Eli Ben-Dahan of the far-right Jewish Home party said his ministry was seeking legal ways to enable Jews to pray at the site, which they call the Temple Mount.

Due to the sensitive nature of the Al-Aqsa mosque, Israel maintains a compromise with the Islamic trust that controls the compound to restrict the area for Muslim prayers. 

Israeli forces, however, regularly escort Jewish visitors to the site, leading to tension with Palestinian worshipers.

The compound, which sits just above the Western Wall plaza, houses both the Dome of the Rock and the Al-Aqsa mosque and is 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.

According to mainstream Jewish religious leaders, Jews are forbidden from entering for fear they would profane the "Holy of Holies," or the inner sanctum of the Second Temple.

Al-Aqsa is located in East Jerusalem, a part of the internationally recognized Palestinian territories that have been occupied by the Israeli military since 1967.

Source: Ma'an News

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