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Israelis take to Al-Aqsa Mosque on Israeli Independence Day

May 2, 2017 2:45 P.M. (Updated: May 2, 2017 2:47 P.M.)
JERUSALEM (Ma'an) -- Groups of extremist Israelis under armed Israeli police escort took to the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound Tuesday morning, as Israel marked its Independence Day -- known to Palestinians as the Nakba, or “catastrophe” that saw some 750,000 Palestinians expelled from their lands on 1948, which is commemorated on May 15.

Firas al-Dibs, the spokesperson for the Islamic Waqf -- the religious trust responsible for managing the Al-Aqsa compound -- told Ma'an that at least 90 Israelis had entered the compound as of 9:30 a.m., highlighting that two Israeli border police officers, who were with a group of Israeli settlers, "performed a military salute while they were facing the Dome of the Rock."

Islamic Waqf director Sheikh Azzam al-Khatib said Israeli police allowed the groups into the compound, and turned a blind eye to those who performed religious rituals, which is in contravention of an agreement signed between Israel and the Jordanian government after Israel’s illegal occupation of East Jerusalem in 1967 that prohibits non-Muslim worship at the compound.

Al-Khatib denounced Israeli police for being complicit with Israelis who violate the status quo at the site, and said that he personally warned policemen that the prayers were taking place.

Meanwhile, Israeli police spokeswoman Luba al-Samri said in a statement that all official Independence Day celebrations were observed “without any notable exceptional events,” adding Israeli police officers continued to deploy across the Jerusalem to “maintain order.”

Restrictions on movement for Palestinians at the compound are typically implemented by Israeli authorities for alleged security purposes, particularly during Jewish and Israeli national holidays, while tensions around Al-Aqsa Mosque were a main contributor to increasing unrest that began in October 2015, after right-wing Israelis made frequent visits to the site during the Jewish high holiday season.

For Israeli Independence Day celebrations on Monday, dozens of Israeli flags were installed atop the Ibrahimi mosque in the southern occupied West Bank city of Hebron, when mosque director Sheikh Hifthi Abu Sneineh accused Israeli settlers of attempting to “take over the mosque and turn it into a synagogue.”

“As usual Israeli settlers attempt to impose their control during their Jewish holidays, but we will continue to expose their practices and violations conducted against this Islamic mosque that belongs to all Muslims around the world,” Abu Sneineh said.
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