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Al-Aqsa director condemns frequent Israeli raids on holy site

Dec. 6, 2013 10:32 P.M. (Updated: Dec. 7, 2013 12:00 P.M.)
JERUSALEM (Ma'an) -- Director of the al-Aqsa compound Najeh Bkerat warned against the increasing number of Israeli actions and raids in the area of the compound on Friday.

Bkerat said Israeli forces raided the compound more than 10 times so far in the year 2013, which he described as a dangerous precedent.

Bkerat told Ma'an that "the Israeli occupation intentionally uses force against worshipers who come to al-Aqsa mosque to terrorize them and keep them away."

"Israel raided al-Aqsa 3 times this week, on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, and trapped worshipers inside to ensure the entrance of settlers," he said.

"What do these raids mean? What does the presence of intelligence officers and soldiers in (the compound) and the increase of extremist visits mean?" Brekat added, referring to the frequent tours of Jewish extremists escorted by Israeli forces.

"The occupation (forces) aim with these racist procedures to implement a strategic plan in al-Aqsa and prepare it for division in time and space," he added.

Bkerat said that Israel wants to place a large Menorah in the compound as a "symbol for the Jewish state's control over Jerusalem and its holy sites and in order to change (the site's) Arabic, Islamic, and Christian nature."

The comments come after Israeli forces raided the compound earlier in the day, injuring 40 Palestinian worshipers in ensuing clashes.

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 the 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.

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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