Scores of Jewish settlers Thursday forced their way into Jerusalem's flash point Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, amid reports over increasing intrusions at Al-Aqsa Mosque, showing that 2,233 settlers raided the Muslim holy site in July. "Since Thursday morning, over 268 Jewish settlers have entered the compound," Firas al-Dibs, a spokesman for Jerusalem's Religious Endowments Authority, the Jordanian-run authority responsible for overseeing the city's Muslim and Christian holy sites, told Anadolu Agency (AA).
According to al-Dibs, the settlers entered Al-Aqsa, accompanied by Israeli police, through the compound's Al-Mugharbah Gate. A large group of Jewish settlers started to perform Jewish rituals, dancing and singing as they walked through the plaza of Al-Haram Al-Sharif, according to officials from the Islamic Waqf department, as reported by Palestinian news agency, Wafa.
This month, over 2,200 Jewish settlers forced their way into the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, according to a Palestinian nongovernmental organization (NGO) earlier this week. "Around 2,233 Jewish settlers guarded by Israeli security personnel stormed the compound in July," the Wadi Hilweh Information Center said in a statement. The NGO said Israeli authorities also banned 14 Palestinians, including two minors and two women, from entering the holy site for different periods of time last month.
Amid ongoing escalation of violence against Muslim worshipers, a body of extremist Jewish organizations, known widely as Temple Mount groups, also called for massive raids of Al-Aqsa Mosque during the upcoming Muslim festival of Eid Al-Adha, according to the Middle East Monitor.
The area referred to as the Temple Mount by Jews, which Al-Aqsa is built on top of, is central to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and a flash point issue, with Palestinians fearing Israel may one day seek to assert further control over it. It is located in East Jerusalem and was annexed in 1980 by Israeli forces, claiming it as the capital of the Jewish state, a move never recognized by the international community. It is the third holiest site in Islam and is the most sacred site in Judaism. Jews are allowed to visit but not pray there to avoid provoking tensions.