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Israeli special forces lead 'provocative raid' on Al-Aqsa Mosque compound

July 12, 2017 4:18 P.M. (Updated: July 12, 2017 5:23 P.M.)
JERUSALEM (Ma’an) -- A group of officers from Israel’s special forces “raided” the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in the Old City of occupied East Jerusalem on Wednesday morning, according to the director of the mosque.

Director of Al-Aqsa Mosque Sheikh Omar al-Kasawani told Ma’an that a group of officers from Israel's special forces raided the compound, as one of the officers had an Israeli flag draped over his shoulder in an “obvious attempt to provoke Al-Aqsa guards.”

Al-Kasawani said that the officers' behavior was “dangerous,” as they were aiming to “send a message about the sovereignty of Al-Aqsa Mosque and that (Israel) can do anything it wants with the site.”

Palestinians have long feared that Israel has been attempting to shake up the status quo at the holy site, in the shape of routine Jewish incursions on the site and right-wing Israeli calls to demolish the mosque and replace it with a third Jewish temple.

“The (Israeli) occupation must be held accountable for this kind of behavior, which occurred under the force of weapons,” al-Kasawani added, referencing the fact that the Israeli officers were armed when they led the provocative incursion into the compound.

He also noted that that the officers’ actions were not “spontaneous,” but part of Israeli plans focused on “imposing a new reality at Al-Aqsa.”

According to al-Kasawani, an Israeli “settler” had also “raided” Al-Aqsa Mosque compound on Wednesday morning wearing a shirt with a picture of the Israeli flag printed on it.

An Israeli police spokesperson was not immediately available to comment on the incidents.

Al-Kasawani connected the Israeli incursions onto the holy site with the recent UNESCO decision to include Hebron’s Old City, including the Ibrahimi Mosque, into the organization’s World Heritage in Danger list.

Meanwhile, a few days earlier, UNESCO adopted a resolution reaffirming the organization’s rejection of Israeli claims of sovereignty over occupied East Jerusalem, which was annexed by the Israeli state in 1980 in a move never recognized by the international community.

Following Israel’s occupation 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 prayers in the area. However, non-Muslims are permitted to visit the site during designated times.

Israeli forces nonetheless regularly escort Jewish visitors to the compound, who often carry out Jewish religious rituals and prayers at the site, leading to tensions with Palestinian worshipers.

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