JERUSALEM (Ma’an) – Israel was temporally dividing the al-Aqsa Mosque compound between Muslims and Jews this week, as Israeli police officers deployed in the compound Tuesday for the third consecutive day denying Muslim worshippers entry at gunpoint.
Witnesses told Ma’an that Israeli police officers rounded up Muslim worshipers at gunpoint and forced them to go to the yards around the Dome of the Rock.
They highlighted that only elderly people aged over 50 were present in the compound. They were all forcibly moved from the main yard near al-Aqsa Mosque and the Marawani mosque and gathered around the Dome of the Rock. Heated arguments and fistfights took place between worshipers and Israeli officers.
The restrictions appeared to be in preparation for the Tisha B'Av holiday, when Jews mark the destruction of two historic Temples, believed to have been located on the site of what is now the Al-Aqsa compound.
On the main gates leading to the compound, witnesses said Tuesday that Israeli police officers deployed heavily denying all women and men under 50 entry to the compound.
Employees of the Palestinian ministry of endowment were also denied entry except security guards.
Witnesses said Israeli officers fired tear gas canisters at women crowded outside the King Faysal gate trying to argue with officers to be allowed to enter the compound.
Meanwhile, more than 170 right-wing Jews including the Israeli minister of housing Uri Ariel entered the compound through the Moroccan gate escorted by Israeli police officers. They toured the compound and performed religious rites before they left.
Palestinian security guards of the compound said they tried to object some of the behaviors of right-wing Jews, but Israeli officers prevented their intervention and even tried to assault them.
Director of al-Aqsa Mosque Sheikh Omar al-Kiswani slammed the procedures taken by Israeli police officers against worshipers highlighting that clashes took place repeatedly near the mosque during which Israeli officers fired rubber-coated bullets.
He highlighted that officials of the ministry of endowment contacted the Jordanian ambassador to Palestine and Jordan’s minister of endowment to update them on the situation as the al-Aqsa Mosque is under Jordanian custody.