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Israeli settlers storm al-Aqsa mosque amid tensions in West Bank

Israeli forces beat a photographer Ahmed Gharabli (R) during his coverage of clashes between Muslim worshippers and Israeli forces in al-Aqsa mosque compound, the third holiest site of Islam, on May 21, 2021. (Photo by AFP)

Amid international efforts to de-escalate tensions in the occupied Palestinian territories, Israeli settlers have once again raided the al-Aqsa Mosque compound in the occupied Old City of East Jerusalem al-Quds under the protection of Israeli forces.

The Palestinian information center, citing sources, reported that extremist settlers entered the compound through the Moroccan Gate in the early hours of Sunday.

The Israeli troops also attacked the worshipers who came to perform the dawn prayer at the gates of the al-Aqsa and prevented them from entering the mosque. 

Some of the mosque’s guards were detained and and taken to undisclosed location. 

The settlers, who were being escorted by heavily-armed Israeli forces, provocatively toured the holy site.

The Israeli settlers performed Jewish religious rituals in the compound, which sits just above the Western Wall plaza and houses both the Dome of the Rock and al-Aqsa mosques.

Israeli settlers routinely “raid” the sacred compound via the Moroccan Gate, tour the site, and leave through the Chain Gate.

Israeli forces also on Friday stormed the al-Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem al-Quds in a move condemned as “provocative”.

At least eighty Palestinians were injured as Israeli forces stormed al-Aqsa Mosque after noonday prayers on Friday and fired sound bombs and rubber bullets at worshipers.

The Jewish visitation of al-Aqsa is permitted, but according to an agreement signed between Israel and Jordan — which is the custodian of the holy sites in the compound — after Israel’s occupation of East Jerusalem al-Quds in 1967, non-Muslim worship at the compound is strictly prohibited.

Visits accompanied by worship thus anger the Palestinians, who have repeatedly warned of Israeli attempts to change the status quo of the al-Aqsa compound, the third holiest site in Islam.

Furthermore, the number of Israeli lawmakers who enter the sacred compound has increased since prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu decided last July to allow such visits once every three months.

Many of the Knesset members are right-wing extremists who support the demolition of the Islamic site in order to build a Jewish temple in its place.

The occupied Palestinian territories have witnessed tensions ever since US President Donald Trump announced a unilateral decision in December 2017 to recognize Jerusalem al-Quds as Israel’s “capital” and relocate the US embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to the occupied city.

The decision dealt a blow to the Palestinians, who view the eastern sector of the occupied city as the capital of their future state.

The latest tensions come as Israel launched a devastating bombing campaign on Gaza on May 10 after harassment of Palestinians in Jerusalem al-Quds and attempts to steal their lands in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of the city.

The occupying regime announced a unilateral ceasefire on Friday, which was accepted by the Palestinian resistance groups in Gaza with Egyptian mediation.

According to Gaza's Health Ministry, 248 Palestinians were killed in the Israeli offensive, including 66 children and 39 women, and at least 1,910 were injured.

During the fighting, Gaza-based resistance factions fired rockets into the occupied territories in response to the Israeli bloodshed. 

Israel abducted 2,000 Palestinians over past 5 weeks

Israeli forces abducted nearly 2,000 Palestinians over the past five weeks in a series of raids across the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem al-Quds.  

Abdul Nasser Farwana, head of the studies and documentation unit at the Palestinian prisoners authority, said in a press release on Sunday that the arrests were made in the West Bank, Jerusalem al-Quds among others.

The detainees also included a large number of children, women, and elderly persons.

He said that around one million Palestinians were arrested by the Israeli forces since 1967.

The circumstances surrounding the kidnappings are yet unknown, but the Israeli forces carry out such swoops on a nearly daily basis, taking away Palestinians, whom the regime usually accuses of acting against its so-called interests.

An undated photo by Palestinian media shows Israeli forces abducting Palestinians during raids in the occupied West Bank. 

Israel holds more than 7,000 Palestinians in its jails. Most of the prisoners are being held with no indictment or trial, under a controversial policy known as administrative detention.

Israel has built more than 230 illegal settlements on the occupied Palestinian territory since 1967 that have come to house some 600,000 settlers.

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