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Israeli extremist groups post Al-Aqsa break-in photos online

Oct. 16, 2008 8:10 P.M. (Updated: Oct. 16, 2008 8:10 P.M.)
Jerusalem - Ma'an - Israelis on Thursday posted statements, news items and photographs online indicating that extremist groups had broken into the Al-Aqsa Mosque in East Jerusalem on Wednesday.

Among the claims were that groups of Jewish Israelis had "boldly and loudly" read parts of their holy book, which is known in Hebrew as the Tanach. Among the individuals at the break-in were reportedly members of "Yehuda Atzion," an extremist group that threatened in the 1980s to "blow up the Al-Aqsa Mosque." Others involved claimed it was the first time they had been to the site, which is in the Old City of East Jerusalem.

The Israelis supposedly involved wrote in online statements that all were carrying holy scripts for reading on religious holidays. Sources added that Israeli police kept the invasion secret in order to avoid escalations in the already tense state of Arab-Jewish relations in Israel.

The Al-Aqsa Foundation for Waqf and Heritage warned on Thursday of "an escalation of the trend," in which groups of gangs attempt to break in to the mosque, mainly for the purpose of performing religious rituals.

Foundation leader Zaki Ighbareyah called for Muslims to "pour to Al-Aqsa for prayers" in response to the alleged incidents.

"We published photographs of Israeli groups breaking into Al-Aqsa, and today they are talking publicly about invading the holy compound," Ighbareyah said in a statement. He also described the attitudes of those involved as "provocative."

"We consider this incident an attack on Al-Aqsa and a provocation of the feelings of Muslims around the world," particularly since it "is carried out under the guard and approval of the Israeli government," he said.

Police apparently allowed up to 650 people to enter the area on Wednesday. Two trips were permitted by the police, according to media sources. One group of about 400 entered the mosque on Wednesday morning while another group of about 250 arrived after noon on the same day. The incident was documented by photographs that seemed to show extremists within various parts of the facility.

The head of Palestinian Authority (PA)'s Waqf Department in Jerusalem also denounced what he called "provocations" and accused the Israeli military of "creating tension by allowing extremists to break into Al-Aqsa, and while guarding them." He said he feared that the "consequences of such actions could affect the entire region."
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