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Israeli police detain 2 Palestinians, evacuate 9 Israelis from tense Aqsa

April 24, 2016 12:17 P.M. (Updated: April 24, 2016 10:37 P.M.)
JERUSALEM (Ma'an) -- Two Palestinians were detained and nine Israelis were evacuated from the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound Sunday morning amid rising tensions at the holy site during the Jewish holiday season, according to Israeli and Palestinian sources.

Israeli police continued heightened security measures in occupied East Jerusalem’s Old City early Sunday morning following tension surrounding the Jewish holiday of Passover on Friday.

Witnesses told Ma’an armed Israeli forces escorted a group of right-wing Israelis to the area, who were stopped by guards after they attempted to carry out “rituals” in the compound.

Following a verbal and physical confrontation between Palestinian youths and the group of Israelis, two Palestinians were detained and five Israelis were evacuated from the compound.

According to a statement from Israeli police spokesperson Luba al-Samri, a total of nine Israelis including three minors were evacuated from Al-Aqsa over the course of Sunday morning for violating regulations for Jewish visitors.

Israeli forces have been heavily deployed at all entrances to the Old City and at Al-Aqsa’s gates since yesterday evening, and have been seizing the IDs of Palestinian worshipers before their entry to the compound, locals said.

Over 70 Palestinians, including women and elderly people, have been banned from the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound since the start of the month.

Israeli police on Friday banned 29 Palestinian worshippers from the mosque. Seven right-wing Israelis were also detained, and police seized their sacrificial goats.

Ahead of Passover, right-wing Jewish organizations had urged Jews to flock to Jerusalem's Mount of Olives and Al-Aqsa Mosque to offer sacrifices, Israeli media reported.

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 Israel's illegal annexation of East Jerusalem in 1967, Israel has maintained a compromise with the Islamic trust that controls the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound to not allow non-Muslim prayer in the area.

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

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