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Far-right Israelis enter Al-Aqsa compound

July 22, 2009 3:05 P.M. (Updated: July 23, 2009 4:54 P.M.)
Jerusalem – Ma’an – Israeli police allowed 45 far-right Israelis to tour the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in the Old City of Jerusalem in what Palestinians viewed as a provocation.

The settler group visited the area marking Ninth of the month of Av on the Jewish calendar, which is observed in commemoration of the destruction of the first and second Jewish Temples, which once stood underneath where the Al-Aqsa Mosque now stands.

Believed to be the location where the prophet Muhammad ascended to heaven during his Night Journey, Al-Aqsa is the third holiest site in Islam. The compound, with the golden Dome of the Rock, is a focal point of Palestinian national pride. It is especially sensitive because some extremist Jewish groups seek the demolition of the present-day mosques and the construction of a “Third Temple.”

The director of the Islamic endowment (Waqf) office in Jerusalem, Sheikh Azzam Al-Khatib, said that Israeli police escorted the settlers to protect them. He explained that they entered in groups of 12 to 15. No physical confrontations were reported.

On Tuesday evening, right-wing Israeli groups rallied inside the Old City of Jerusalem near Al-Aqsa Mosque compound. Police closed Al-Wad road to protect them and facilitate the demonstration. Palestinian shop owners were forced to shut down their shops at 6:00pm.

Some of the Israelis assaulted Palestinian Jerusalemites and their properties near the Silwan Girls School in the Mughrebi Gate area. Six Palestinians were injured.
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