Israeli-occupied Jerusalem’s mayor Nir Barkat forced his way on Tuesday into the al-Aqsa Mosque compound in East Jerusalem under heavy police protection, a Palestinian official said, as Israel continues to restrict the entry of Palestinian worshipers into al-Aqsa for the fifth week in a row.
“We protest this intrusion. Barakat entered the compound under the Israeli police’s protections without permission or a prior request,” Sheikh Azzam al-Khatib, head of the Jordan-run Organization for Muslim Endowments and al-Aqsa Affairs, told Anadolu Agency.
This is the first time Barkat storms the holy site since assuming office in 2008.
“Barkat took a tour at the compound’s courtyards before leaving,” al-Khatib added.
The intrusion came one day after Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah visited the complex.
Hamdallah’s visit came after Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas warned against Israeli plans to “divide” the holy site.
In an urgent message to the US administration on Sunday, Abbas warned that Israel’s continued provocations at the mosque complex would lead to a “wide-reaching explosion.”
Israel continues to restrict the entry of Palestinian worshipers into al-Aqsa for the fifth week in a row.
Israeli authorities have imposed restrictions on Palestinians seeking to enter the al-Aqsa Mosque compound, denying Muslim men under 40 access to the holy site while facilitating the entry of Zionist settlers of all ages.
In recent months, groups of extremist Zionist settlers – often accompanied by Israeli security forces – have repeatedly forced their way into East Jerusalem’s flashpoint al-Aqsa Mosque complex.
The frequent violations anger Palestinians and occasionally lead to violent confrontations.
For Muslims, al-Aqsa represents the world’s third holiest site.
Israel occupied East Jerusalem during the 1967 Middle East War. It later annexed the holy city in 1980, claiming it as the capital of the self-proclaimed Zionist state – a move never recognized by the international community.
In September 2000, a visit to the site by controversial Israeli leader Ariel Sharon sparked what later became known as the “Second Intifada” – a popular uprising against the Israeli occupation in which thousands of Palestinians were killed.
Source: Al-Akhbar English