Hamas has warned of "repercussions" over Israel incursions into Al-Aqsa Mosque in a warning issued days before the start of the Jewish holidays when settler raids on the super-sensitive compound mount.
"The continuation of the Zionist aggression and their brutality against al-Quds and the holy shrines will be the cause of a major battle," Mahmud Zahar, a senior member of the Gaza-based resistance movement, said on Thursday.
Pointing to Palestinian concerns that a long-standing convention by which Israeli Jewish settlers may visit but not pray in the holy site was being covertly flouted, Zahar said Israel would be held "fully responsible for the repercussions of such violations."
The warning was made after Beyadenu, an Israeli group that encourages the settlers to visit the al-Aqsa Mosque compound, said it was committed to increasing such visits on the occasion of the Jewish New Year on September 29.
"We broke the 50,000 visitor barrier on the Temple Mount" this past year, Beyadenu said, referring to the Jewish name for the al-Aqsa Mosque compound. Tom Nissani, the group's chief executive, said, "The goal is 100,000 visitors next (Jewish) year.”
Earlier in the day, at least 386 Israeli settlers, escorted by military forces, broke into the al-Aqsa Mosque compound in the occupied Old City of al-Quds.
In what is viewed as a provocation, the Israeli settlers were reported to have entered the mosque’s courtyards through the Moroccan Gate and performed rituals and Talmudic prayers.
Such mass settler break-ins almost always take place at the behest of Tel Aviv-backed temple groups and under the auspices of the Israeli police in al-Quds.
The al-Aqsa Mosque compound, which sits just above the Western Wall plaza, houses both the Dome of the Rock and al-Aqsa Mosque.
The Jewish visitation of al-Aqsa is permitted, but according to an agreement signed between Israel and the Jordanian government in the wake of Israel’s occupation of East al-Quds in 1967, non-Muslim worship at the compound is prohibited.