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4 Palestinians detained, 2 Israelis evacuated from Aqsa on Jewish holiday

June 12, 2016 1:26 P.M. (Updated: June 13, 2016 1:15 P.M.)
Israelis tour Al-Aqsa compound on June 12, 2016 (MaanImages)
JERUSALEM (Ma'an) -- Four Palestinians were detained and two extremist Israelis were evacuated from the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound on Sunday morning as dozens of Israelis toured the site to perform rituals in celebration of the Jewish holiday of Shavuot.

Firas al-Dibs, spokesperson for the Waqf (Islamic Endowment) that controls the compound, said subsequent groups of more than a hundred extremist Israelis entered the site through the Moroccan gate, accompanied by Israeli police and special forces.

Al-Dibs said dozens of right-wing Israelis performed rituals at Al-Aqsa’s gates, while witnesses said Israelis were also attempting to perform rituals inside Al-Aqsa Mosque itself, in violation of rules regarding non-Muslim prayer at the holy site.

Israelis tour Al-Aqsa compound on June 12, 2016 (MaanImages)

Israeli forces detained Waqf employee Muhammad Ruwaidi and another Palestinian youth from the compound, and took them to a nearby police station. According to a statement from Israeli police spokesperson Luba al-Samri, two additional Palestinians were taken in for questioning.

According to al-Samri, two “Jewish visitors” were evacuated from the compound after violating regulations.

Israelis tour Al-Aqsa compound on June 12, 2016 (MaanImages)

A total of 1,034 visitors entered the compound on Sunday, including 900 tourists and 134 Jewish Israelis, she added.

The third holiest site in Islam, the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound is also venerated as Judaism's most holy place as it sits where Jews believe the First and Second Temples once stood.

Following Israel's occupation of East Jerusalem in 1967, Israel has maintained an agreement with the Waqf not to allow non-Muslim prayer in the area.

Jewish prayer is allowed at the neighboring Western Wall, which is the last remnant of the Second Temple.

However, Israeli forces regularly escort Jewish visitors to Al-Aqsa, leading to anger among Muslim worshipers.

Hundreds of Israeli extremists toured the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound earlier this month celebrating the 49th anniversary of the occupation of the Palestinian territory, three of which were evacuated while two Palestinian women were detained.

Thousands of Israelis marched through the Muslim Quarter in occupied East Jerusalem’s Old City to commemorate the day, shouting anti-Palestinian chants, harassing Palestinian shop owners, and waving Israeli flags.

The Jewish holiday of Shavuot marks the day Jews believe God gave the Torah to the Jewish people while they were gathered on Mount Sinai.

The incident comes as Muslims celebrate the holy month of Ramadan, during which 83,000 Palestinians residing in the occupied West Bank and the Gaza Strip have had their permits revoked to visit the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem and their families in Israel -- following a deadly gun attack in Tel Aviv last week -- in a move the UN said could amount to "collective punishment."

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