Extremist Israeli Jews storm Al-Aqsa compound
Israeli riot police walk at Jerusalem's al-Aqsa mosque compound during clashes with Palestinian demonstrators following Friday prayers on March 8, 2013. [Ahmad Gharbali/Getty Images]
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Over 100 Israeli Jews accompanied by police entered Al-Aqsa compound through the Moroccan gate on Sunday afternoon.
The 104 Israeli Jews were described by witnesses as "settlers," and they included 33 Israeli intelligence officers led by extremist lawyer Yehuda Glick.
Glick was allowed back in Al-Aqsa compound after his 6-month ban was lifted two days ago. He was informed that he would be allowed to return to the compound by Jerusalem District Police Chief Yossi Pariente after serving only one month of his ban.
Glick called on all Jews to visit the compound, and proposed an initiative to schedule daily visits by extremists to the Jerusalem holy site.
Azzam al-Khatib, director of the Jerusalem office of the PA ministry of endowment said "it is obvious that Israeli police are being pressured by extremists to allow Glick to return to Al-Aqsa."
"Glick is a provocative man, and it is obvious that he is trying to create chaos at Al-Aqsa," al-Khatib added.
Yehuda Glick is an American-born Israeli and the chairman of the Temple Mount Heritage Fund, an extremist Jewish organization focused on "strengthening the relationship between Israel and the Temple Mount."
Critics charge that the Fund actually leads Jewish tours to the site with the intention of leading Jewish prayer there- currently banned under Israeli agreements- and encouraging Jews to destroy the Al-Aqsa mosque and build a Jewish temple there.
Sheikh Abdul Azim Salhab, President of the Council of the Islamic Endowment in Jerusalem condemned the recurrent "settler visits" to the site.
He added that Israeli police had taken control over the compound, but should return that to the Islamic endowment.
Because of the sensitive nature of the Al-Aqsa compound, Israel maintains a compromise with the Islamic trust that controls it to not allow non-Muslim prayers in the area. Israeli forces 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 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.