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Israeli forces, rightists tour Aqsa compound

Jan. 9, 2014 3:53 P.M. (Updated: Jan. 10, 2014 9:28 P.M.)
JERUSALEM (Ma'an) -- A group of newly recruited Israeli soldiers and a group of rightist Israelis entered the Al-Aqsa Mosque through the Moroccan Gate Thursday, escorted by Israeli police officers, witnesses said.

More than 50 army recruits toured the mosque's squares in military uniform, escorted by police and tour guides, the witnesses told Ma'an.

Separately, they said 17 Israeli rightists led by extremist lawyer Yehuda Glick entered Al-Aqsa. They toured various squares in the compound, and Glick was seen holding photos of the "Jewish Temple" along with photos of Knesset member Moshe Feiglin, who heads the Jewish Leadership faction of Israel's Likud party.

Furthermore, a group of Israeli intelligence officers toured the al-Aqsa Mosque squares, witnesses said.

Yehuda Glick is an American-born Israeli and the chairman of the Temple Mount Heritage Fund, an extremist Jewish organization focused on "strengthening the relationship between Israel and the Temple Mount."

Because of the sensitive nature of the Al-Aqsa compound, Israel maintains a compromise with the Islamic trust that controls it to restrict access for non-Muslims. However, 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.

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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