In response to Jewish settlers storming Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa Mosque last week, four Muslim nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) have called on the international community to protect the Muslim holy site.
The call came after some 5,000 settlers stormed Al-Aqsa Mosque during Jewish holiday last week, under the protection of the Israeli police. They performed Talmudic rituals while inside, deliberately provoking Muslim worshipers.
“We are outraged over the deafening silence of Muslim leaders on the storming by 2,473 Jewish settlers of the Al-Aqsa Mosque, who then performed Talmudic rituals during the Jewish holiday of Sukkot – for the third consecutive day,” a statement from the NGOs read, as reported by Middle East Monitor.
The Union of Temple Mount Organization has reportedly called to increase raids on Al-Aqsa Mosque during the Jewish holidays.
On Sunday, around 653 settlers backed by Israeli police stormed the Al-Aqsa compound, according to the Religious Endowments Authority, a Jordan-run agency responsible for overseeing the city’s Muslim and Christian holy sites.
The Al-Aqsa Mosque is considered to be Islam's third holiest place, after Mecca and Medina. Muslims believe that the first qibla, 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 from that place.
Since Israel occupied Jerusalem in 1967, conflict over the site has continued between Palestinians and Israelis, as the latter believe that the holy temple of Solomon is beneath the mosque. There are also rumors claiming that Israelis were digging canals to reach the temple's ruins.
So far, Jewish settlers have forced their way into the Muslim holy site, as Palestinians have faced a harsher stance from the Israeli government. Earlier this year, Israeli authorities barred hundreds of Muslims from entering the mosque, while certain Israeli politicians asked for an extension of the ban. Tensions escalated after a Muslim scholar was banned from entering the mosque. During the election campaign, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's struggle to survive was a reflection of the increasingly harsh policies against Palestinians and increasing violations at the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound.
Netanyahu spent the final days of his electoral campaign seeking to appeal to right-wing nationalists. The alliance between Netanyahu and the right-wing parties is considered to play a role in the escalation of tensions against Palestinians, as extremist parties make public calls to open Al-Aqsa Mosque for the use of Jewish Israelis as well.
Earlier this month, an Israeli minister announced permission will be given to Jews to enter the compound to pray, defying the status of the Al-Aqsa Mosque. Israel claims that Jerusalem is its capital although the U.N. and many countries recognize the city as occupied; however, Israel has been expanding its control over the city in recent years by making new settlements and forcing the Palestinians to abandon their land.
A 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 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 in July.