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Israel restricts Palestinian access to Al-Aqsa Mosque for Purim

March 22, 2016 10:26 P.M. (Updated: March 23, 2016 11:32 A.M.)
JERUSALEM (Ma’an) -- The Israeli authorities on Tuesday imposed restrictions on Palestinians wishing to worship at the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in occupied East Jerusalem over the Jewish holiday of Purim.

Sheikh Azzam al-Khatib, the general director of the Jerusalem endowment, told Ma'an that Israel had banned all Palestinian men under the age of 50 from entering the compound.

Extremist right-wing Israeli groups have called for visits to the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound during Purim wearing masks traditionally associated with the holiday.

Israeli forces closed Al-Aqsa Mosque on Tuesday after preventing 17 Palestinians from entering the compound and detaining them.

This year, Purim, which commemorates the Biblical account of the saving of the Jewish people from Haman, an ancient Persian vizier, begins Wednesday evening and ends late Thursday.

The Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, which sits just above the Western Wall plaza, houses both the Dome of the Rock and Al-Aqsa mosque.

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.

Following Israeli annexation of East Jerusalem in 1967, Israel has maintained a compromise with the Islamic trust that controls the Al-Aqsa compound to not allow non-Muslim prayers in the area.

Israeli forces regularly escort Jewish visitors to the site, however, leading to tension with Palestinian worshipers.
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