Israel continues to enforce access restrictions at Al-Aqsa Mosque

Published September 29th, 2015 - 10:30 GMT
Al Bawaba
Al Bawaba

Israeli forces on Tuesday denied Palestinians entry to the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound for the third straight day, while dozens of Jews entered the site in celebration of a Jewish holiday.

The director of the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, Sheikh Omar al-Kiswani, told Ma'an that more than 140 "extremist" Jews entered the holy site through the Moroccan Gate.

He said that some toured the compound, while others walked directly from the Moroccan Gate to the Chain Gate and left.

Large numbers of Israeli police officers were deployed across the compound to protect the Jewish visitors, Kiswani said.

Meanwhile, all Palestinians below the age of 50 were denied entry, Kiswani said, adding that only the Chain, Hatta and Council gates were open to elderly Palestinian men and women.

An Israeli police spokesperson said that he was only aware of Palestinian men under 50 being denied entry.

Palestinian witnesses said that Israeli forces attacked a number of worshipers outside the Chain Gate after they were denied entry.

"Israeli troops forcibly pushed the worshipers from the Chain Gate toward the Cotton Market Gate, then the Council Gate," one Palestinian said, while another said that Israeli police had assaulted Palestinians with pepper spray.

Witnesses added that Israeli forces also detained three women outside the compound, identifying them as Ayda Sidawi, Sina Shiha, and Nujoud Imteir. The police spokesperson confirmed only two women were detained, saying it was for "attacking an Israeli man."

He also said that a 17-year-old Palestinian was detained in Jerusalem's Old City for "throwing stones at a bus."

He said he was not familiar with the reported use of pepper spray by Israeli forces.

Palestinians who were denied entry to the mosque compound staged protests outside its gates, raising posters and chanting: "Allah Akbar," "Al-Aqsa is ours," and "Al-Aqsa is in the eyes."

Schoolchildren attending religious schools inside the compound were stopped for half an hour outside the Chain and Hatta gates before they were allowed in, the headmistress of the girls' school, Ihad Sabri, told Ma'an.

She added that three school girls were denied entry.

Tensions have soared at the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound -- the third holiest site in Islam -- since the beginning of this month.

A series of Jewish religious holiday, including the eight-day Sukkot festival that began on Sunday evening, have seen large numbers of Jewish worshipers visit the flashpoint compound.

At least 22 Palestinians were injured on Monday during clashes at the holy site, with further clashes expected during the coming days.

Palestinians have expressed fears that Israel is seeking to change rules governing the site, with far-right Jewish groups pushing for more access to the compound and even efforts by fringe organizations to erect a new temple.

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