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Israeli forces storm Aqsa compound, injuring 6 worshipers

April 13, 2014 10:41 A.M. (Updated: April 17, 2014 4:46 P.M.)
JERUSALEM (Ma'an) -- Israeli forces stormed the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound on Sunday morning, attacking worshipers with stun grenades and rubber-coated steel bullets, as Muslim worshipers braced for raids by right-wing Jewish groups as Passover approaches.

Director of Al-Aqsa Mosque Sheikh Omar al-Kiswani told Ma'an that more than 50 Israeli "special forces" stormed the compound through the Moroccan Gate and the Chain Gate during the raid.

Al-Kiswani added that Israeli forces "besieged" Muslim worshipers with rubber-coated bullets and stun grenades, and closed the Chain Gate with chains.

One of the Al-Aqsa compound security guards was struck by a rubber-coated bullet during the raid, and he was identified as Amjad al-Alami.

In addition, five worshipers were hurt by pepper spray used by Israeli officers during the assault.

Witnesses told Ma'an that Israeli forces had arrived in the early morning and stationed themselves near the Moroccan gate watching the movement of all worshipers inside the compound. The soldiers also denied right-wing Israeli groups access to the compound.

Israeli police officers stationed at all of the gates of the compound "strictly inspected" all Muslims who attempted to access the compound, witnesses said.

Many young men were denied entry while the identity cards of others, including elderly men and women, were taken before they were allowed to enter the compound.

Eyewitnesses said a young Palestinian man was detained inside the compound and another one was assaulted by Israeli officers.

Israeli police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said in a statement that "stones" had been thrown at police at the Moroccan Gate, and as a result "units" had entered the area in order to "disperse Arab rioters."

"Two police officers injured lightly during riots," he added, noting that they were "being treated at the scene."

Dozens of Muslims had spent the night in the compound in anticipation of raids by right-wing Jewish groups, who they expect to enter the compound on the occasion of Passover.

Prominent Israeli right-wing organizations have urged Jews to flock to Al-Aqsa Mosque during Passover in what many worshipers consider a provocation.

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.

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.
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