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Israeli worshipers take to Al-Aqsa compound for Sukkot

Oct. 17, 2016 3:06 P.M. (Updated: Oct. 17, 2016 10:12 P.M.)
JERUSALEM (Ma'an) -- A group of right-wing Israelis toured the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in the Old City of occupied East Jerusalem on Monday morning for the Jewish holiday of Sukkot, the Islamic Endowment (Waqf) in charge of the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound said.

Waqf officials told Ma'an that 43 "extremists” escorted by Israeli police “stormed the Al-Aqsa mosque compound" through the Moroccan Gate.

Waqf officials and eyewitnesses said that Israeli police officers stationed outside the gates of Al-Aqsa seized identity cards of Palestinian men and women before allowing them to access the compound.

Witnesses said that Israeli special forces deployed in the yards of the compound to protect the Israeli visitors, and assaulted a young Palestinian man before detaining him.

Several Israelis performed Jewish rituals outside the Cotton Merchants Gate while carrying palm branches, while others marched from the Bani Ghanim Gate of the Al-Aqsa compound to the Lions Gate of the Old City.

An Israeli police spokesperson was not immediately available for comment.

Following Israel's illegal annexation of East Jerusalem in 1967, Israel has maintained a compromise with the Waqf to not allow non-Muslim prayer in the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound. However, some Jewish worshipers regularly breach the agreement, particularly during the Jewish high holidays.

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.

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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