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Chaos continues at Al-Aqsa, 5 Israelis evacuated

April 27, 2016 4:39 P.M. (Updated: April 30, 2016 9:36 P.M.)

JERUSALEM (Ma’an) -- Chaos continued at the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in occupied East Jerusalem Wednesday when five Israelis were evacuated for violating visitation rules as hundreds toured the area for Passover.

Witnesses told Ma’an that a group of over a hundred right-wing Israelis entered the mosque compound via Dung Gate, four of whom performed religious rituals in violation of longstanding agreements regarding worship at the site.

The four proceeded to sing and dance near Chain Gate before being stopped by Al-Aqsa guards who chanted “Allahu Akbar” at the group, witnesses said.

Israeli police intervened and escorted the Israeli worshipers from the compound.

Israeli police spokeswoman Luba al-Samri said five Israelis, including a minor, were evacuated by police after violating visitation rules.

The five were among over 700 foreigners and non-Muslims to tour the compound Wednesday, 530 of whom were tourists, al-Samri added.

Israeli police have maintained heavy security at Al-Aqsa and around the Old City during the Passover holiday this week, with witnesses reporting Israeli police confiscating identity cards of Palestinian worshipers and deploying their forces around the compound.

Right-wing Israeli extremists calling for the destruction of Al-Aqsa to make room for a Third Temple have encouraged Israelis to carry out rituals at the site this holiday season, inflaming tensions with Palestinians who view these acts as a threat to their right to worship.

Although Jewish visitation is permitted to the compound, non-Muslim worship is prohibited according to an agreement signed between Israel and the Jordanian government after Israel’s illegal occupation of East Jerusalem in 1967.

Despite this agreement, Israeli extremists regularly enter the compound, often protected by armed guards, and incite against Palestinians by carrying out Jewish worship as a way of challenging the status quo at Al-Aqsa.

At least 70 Palestinians have been banned from entering Al-Aqsa this month in what critics say was in preparation for increased Jewish visitation to the compound for Passover. Weekly Friday visits by Palestinians from the Gaza Strip to Al-Aqsa were also prohibited by Israeli authorities.

Palestinians across the occupied West Bank have also faced increased restrictions due to the holiday, with the closure of checkpoints across the area and the effective lockdown of Hebron’s Old City for Palestinian movement.

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