On the do-over election day, scores of Jewish settlers forced their way into Jerusalem's flashpoint Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, as Palestinians have faced a harsher stance from the Israeli government recently.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's struggle to survive is a reflection of the increasingly harsh policies against Palestinians and increasing violations at the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound. Netanyahu spent the final days of the campaign seeking to appeal to right-wing nationalists, key to his re-election bid, and to boost turnout among his base. "Around 154 Jewish settlers have entered the compound," said the Religious Endowments Authority, a Jordan-run authority responsible for overseeing the city's Muslim and Christian holy sites. According to the statement, the settlers entered Al-Aqsa, accompanied by Israeli police, through the compound's Al-Mugharbah Gate.
The report revealed increasing raids at Al-Aqsa Mosque with more than 2,200 Jewish settlers forcing their way into the compound in July, according to a Palestinian nongovernmental organization (NGO). "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 in July.
Al-Aqsa Mosque is considered to be the third holiest place in the world by Muslims, after Mecca and Medina. Muslims believe that the first qiblah, the direction which Muslims turn to during prayers, was Al-Aqsa until it was designated as Mecca. Moreover, the existence of the Qubbat-us Sahra within the compound makes it more special as it is believed that the Prophet Muhammad started his spiritual journey to the heavens (miraj) from there.
Since Israel occupied Jerusalem in 1967 the conflict continues between Palestinians and Israelis, as the latter believe that the holy temple of Solomon is beneath the mosque. There are several rumors claiming that some Israelis were digging tunnels to reach the temple's ruins.