Two days after skirmishes with Palestinians, Israeli police stormed the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, a sensitive Jerusalem holy site.
Early Sunday, police evacuated Palestinians from the sprawling esplanade outside the mosque, while scores of Palestinians chanted “God is Greatest” inside the edifice.
According to the police, they entered to make it easier for Jews to visit the sacred spot on a regular basis. They claimed that Palestinians had stocked up on stones and erected obstacles in preparation for unrest. The police stated that they were dedicated to allowing Jews and Muslims to worship freely.
The Temple Mount is the third holiest location in Islam, and the third holiest site for Jews. It’s been a hotspot for Israeli-Palestinian violence for a long time.
Early Friday morning, clashes erupted at the site after police said Palestinians threw stones at the Western Wall, a nearby Jewish holy site. Shortly after morning prayers, police arrived in force and clashed with hundreds of Palestinians.
The hilltop compound is located in Jerusalem’s Old City, which is home to key Jewish, Christian, and Muslim holy sites. The Muslim holy month of Ramadan, the Christian holy week culminating in Easter Sunday, and the weeklong Jewish Passover are all taking place at the same time this year, bringing tens of thousands of visitors to the city after coronavirus restrictions were mostly lifted.
In the 1967 war, Israel took control of east Jerusalem, including the Old City, as well as the West Bank and Gaza. The Palestinians desire a state in all three areas in the future. Israel annexed east Jerusalem in a move that has been widely condemned by the international community, and it continues to develop and expand settlements in the occupied West Bank. Since the Islamic militant group gained power in Gaza in 2007, it has been subjected to an Israeli and Egyptian siege.
Palestinians have long feared that Israel intends to take control or partition the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound.
Although Israeli officials claim to be committed to maintaining the status quo, large groups of nationalist and religious Jews have visited the site with police escorts on a regular basis in recent years, which Palestinians regard as a provocation.
A extreme Jewish group recently called on people to bring animals to the site to be sacrificed during Passover, promising financial awards to those who succeeded or even tried. Israeli authorities are working to prevent such events, but the plea was widely shared on social media by Palestinians, along with demands for Muslims to refrain from performing any sacrifices.