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Top Israeli official tours Aqsa mosque compound

Aug. 17, 2014 6:00 A.M. (Updated: Aug. 18, 2014 10:31 A.M.)
JERUSALEM (Ma'an) -- Deputy speaker of the Israeli Knesset Moshe Feiglin on Sunday morning toured the holy Al-Aqsa mosque compound under heavy escort by Israeli special forces.

A Ma'an reporter in Jerusalem said that Israeli police closed most of the main gates of the compound, denying all Palestinian women and men under 50 access to the holy place, as the right-wing Israeli politician entered from the Moroccan Gate.

Witnesses said Feiglin along with a group of right-wing Israeli Jews and a cameraman toured the compound before they left through the Chain Gate, adding that Feiglin had performed religious rituals beside the Dome of the Rock Mosque.

Witnesses highlighted that Feiglin and his group toured the compound barefoot, apparently out of respect for the foundations of the Jewish temple they believe lies underneath the area.

Separately, right-wing lawyer Yehuda Glick also toured al-Aqsa Mosque compound along with a group of settlers. They tried to perform Jewish rituals near the Hutta Gate (Gate of Remission), but Israeli police forced them to leave.

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."

He has been previously banned by Israeli authorities from entering the compound due to provocations while on the site.

Witnesses told Ma'an that Israeli police assaulted and detained a young Palestinian man outside the same gate.

Director of the Jerusalem office of the Palestinian Ministry of Endowments Sheikh Azzam al-Khatib and Director of Al-Aqsa mosque Sheikh Omar Kiswani jointly denounced the presence of Jewish extremists inside the Islamic holy place.

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 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.

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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