Israeli settlers break into al-Aqsa compound under police escort


11 October 2018|01 Safar 1440|Middle East Eye

Dozens of right-wing Israeli settlers broke into the Haram al-Sharif compound in the Old City of Jerusalem on Wednesday, escorted and protected by Israeli military police, local news agency Al-Quds reported.

Messianic Jews are hoping to establish an increased presence on the site of the Al-Aqsa mosque and the Dome of the Rock, among the most important Muslim shrines in the world and potent symbols of Palestinian nationalism.

In September, a total of 5,487 far-right Jewish settlers broke into the Haram al-Sharif compound, Al-Quds said.

“There is a perceptible increase both in the number of settlers raiding Al-Aqsa, as well as in the religious rituals that they conduct on the site,” Khalid Zabarqa, a lawyer and expert on Jerusalem and Al-Aqsa, told Middle East Eye.

“They grow increasingly audacious.”

Palestinian worshippers who did not give the settlers a wide berth were detained for hours, Zabarqa said.

According to local media, Israeli police also barred three employees of the Islamic Waqf – two guards and a cleaner – from entering Al-Aqsa mosque on Wednesday while the group of Israelis were inside the compound. The employees were also handed letters to show up at an Israeli police station, local media reported.

The Islamic Waqf, a religious authority, manages the mosque and the other sites in the Haram al-Sharif area.

In September, as Jewish-Israeli citizens across the country celebrated the holiday of Sukkot, Israeli security forces facilitated the entry of far-right Jewish groups – including some who hope for a new messianic Jewish age – to the Muslim holy sites.

Police also restricted the movement of local Palestinians, retaining their identity documents at the compound entrance.

Israeli forces erected barricades around the compound and throughout the Old City at the time, giving it the feel of “a military barracks”, local media reported.

Far-right Israelis aim to boost presence at holy site
Videos uploaded to social media showed activists belonging to the far-right Templar movement prostrating themselves in prayer on the Al-Aqsa compound and singing the Israeli national anthem, provocations that are in violation of the site rules.

The Templar movement aims to replace the Muslim structures in the Old City with a Jewish temple. In recent weeks, posters have been plastered throughout ultra-Orthodox Jewish neighbourhoods of Jerusalem, extolling religious residents to ascend to the Haram al-Sharif, or Temple Mount, over the Jewish holidays.