IDF storms Al-Aqsa second day in a row as Israeli settlers visit mosque compound
A Palestinian man clears the damage at the entrance of Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem's Old City after clashes erupted at the compound between Palestinians and Israeli police on June 26, 2016 during the holy month of Ramadan. (AFP/Ahmad Gharabli)
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Israeli special forces stormed the Al-Aqsa mosque compound in occupied East Jerusalem on Monday morning, evacuating Muslim worshipers, including the elderly, to allow right wing Jewish Israelis to tour the compound freely.
Director of the Islamic Endowment and Al-Aqsa mosque affairs Sheikh Azzam al-Khatib told Ma’an that “it was Israeli prime minister Netanyahu who took the decision to storm al-Aqsa mosque.”
He explained that Israeli police confirmed midnight Sunday that the Moroccan Gate -- from which Jewish extremists ususally enter the compound under military protection-- "would remain closed during the last ten days of the holy month of Ramadan."
For several years, added Sheikh al-Khatib, Jewish worshipers and tourists have not been allowed into the Al-Aqsa compound during the last ten days of Ramadan, as the days are particularly sacred to Muslims.
The compound was reportedly quiet until 9:00 a.m, when Israeli special forces suddenly stormed the compound via the Moroccan Gate to "protect settlers” who came in. Israeli forces then chained shut all the gates of the southern mosque (the main mosque in the compound) while dozens of worshipers were still inside.
An Israeli police spokesman was not immediately available for comment.
Monday's raid came a day after Israeli forces clashed with worshippers and injured up to 12 Palestinians when they raided the Al-Aqsa compound to protect a group of Israelis visiting the site.
At least four were detained from the compound, two of whom were South African nationals.
The Palestinian Red Crescent said Israeli forces fired rubber-coated steel bullets and tear gas canisters at a group of worshipers, and also hit them with batons. Five Palestinians were taken to the al-Maqasid Hospital in occupied East Jerusalem for treatment.
Prior to the past two days of raids and visits by Israeli extremists, Israel had closed the Al-Aqsa compound to Jewish and international visitors during the last 10 days of Ramadan for the past 14 years.