Palestinian worshipers clashed with Israeli police at a highly sensitive Jerusalem holy site yesterday. Muslim worshipers at the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound were angered over Jewish visits to the site holy to both religions. The Muslim Waqf organization which oversees the site said police used rubber bullets and pepper spray, adding that two people were arrested.
It was the first time in about 30 years that Jews were allowed into the site during the final days of the fasting month of Ramadan, which coincided this year with the Israeli national holiday commemorating control over the city. The last time when Jerusalem Day coincided with the end of Ramadan in 1988, the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound was closed to Jews.
Yesterday's visit was the first time since Tuesday that Jews were allowed into the site, according to activists. Jews are allowed to visit the site during set hours but not pray there. Jewish visits to the site usually increase for Quds Day. The last Friday of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan is also commemorated as Quds Day, which was launched by Iran's revolutionary leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini and is held by pro-Iranian groups across the region. On Sunday, Israel marks its own Jerusalem Day, when it celebrates capturing the Old City in the 1967 Mideast war.
Meanwhile, tens of thousands of Israelis were expected to mark the day by marching through the city, culminating in celebrations at the Western Wall, which is below the Al-Aqsa compound. The wall is the holiest site where Jews can pray.
Israel has illegally occupied east Jerusalem, in which the Al-Aqsa is located, since the 1967 Arab-Israeli War. In a move never recognized by the international community, Israel annexed the entire city in 1980, claiming it as the self-proclaimed Jewish state's "eternal and undivided" capital. In December 2017, U.S. President Donald Trump broke with decades of bipartisan policy to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital in a move that prompted the Palestinians to cut all contact with his administration.
For Muslims, Al-Aqsa represents the world's third holiest site after Mecca and Medina. Jews, for their part, refer to the area as the Temple Mount, claiming it was the site of two Jewish temples in ancient times. International law continues to view both the West Bank and east Jerusalem as "occupied territory."