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Witnesses: Jewish groups enter Aqsa compound

Oct. 10, 2013 3:21 P.M. (Updated: Oct. 11, 2013 9:58 P.M.)
JERUSALEM (Ma'an) -- Jewish groups entered the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound on Thursday through the Moroccan Gate and performed religious rituals, a Palestinian Authority official said.

Azzam al-Khatib, director of the Jerusalem office of the PA ministry of endowment, told Ma'an that two groups entered the religious site.

Israeli police detained two photojournalists, al-Khatib added, while witnesses told Ma'an that two young Palestinian men were arrested and taken out of the mosque compound via the Chain Gate.

Eyewitnesses told Ma'an that Israeli police officers forced the compound's Palestinian security guards to stand aside while the groups entered the area.

Israeli police spokesman Mickey Rosenfeld told Ma'an that three Israelis were arrested and later released, and that "the visit continued as normal."

Israeli police deployed heavily in the compound before the groups arrived, witnesses said.

Al-Khatib denounced the visit as unacceptable.

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.
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