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Right-wing Israelis take to Al-Aqsa for 3rd day of Rosh Hashanah

Oct. 4, 2016 5:12 P.M. (Updated: Oct. 4, 2016 5:12 P.M.)
JERUSALEM (Ma’an) -- Scores of right-wing Israelis escorted by Israeli security forces toured the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound on Tuesday for the second day in a row, on the occasion of the third and final day of the Jewish holiday of Rosh Hashanah.

The Waqf (Islamic Endowment), which controls the holy site, reported that 73 Israelis entered the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound through the Moroccan Gate, toured the compound and exited from the Chain Gate.

Israeli forces also reportedly banned a number of Palestinian youth from entering the Al-Aqsa Mosque. A number of Palestinian youth who were allowed to enter Al-Aqsa Mosque had their identity cards confiscated by Israeli forces stationed at the compound’s gates, eyewitnesses said.

The eyewitness added that a group of Israelis led by rabbis tried to perform religious rituals at the compound, but were stopped by Palestinian guards.

The incident came amid an increased presence by Israeli police in occupied East Jerusalem for the holiday. Israeli forces raided several homes in the Old City before dawn on Sunday, detaining at least 15 Palestinians for several hours before releasing them and banning most of them from the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound.

Meanwhile, right-wing Jewish organizations called on Israelis to visit the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound over the three-day holiday, after they received assurances from the Israeli army that entry would be secured for every Jewish person wishing to visit the holy site.

In a statement on Sunday, Israeli police spokesperson for Arabic media Luba al-Samri said that large numbers of Israeli police officers, border guards, and volunteers were deployed across Jerusalem, particularly the Old City and its outskirts, for the holiday.

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

Tensions around the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound were a main contributor to the increasing unrest that began last October, after right-wing Israelis made frequent visits to the site during a succession of Jewish holidays this time last year.
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