Israel on Friday imposed restrictions on the entry of Palestinian worshipers into the Al-Aqsa Mosque in annexed East Jerusalem for the third consecutive day.
Israeli police stepped up security around the mosque, deploying 2,000 troops in Jerusalem and erected roadblocks at entrances to Jerusalem’s Old City.
“Police prevent men under 50 and West Bankers from entering Al-Aqsa compound or Friday prayers,” Sheikh Azzam al-Khatib, director-general of the Organization for Muslim Endowments and Al-Aqsa Affairs, told the Turkish Anadolu Agency.
Jews celebrated the start of Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year) on Wednesday evening, the first day of new Jewish year of 5775.
Israel typically imposes restrictions on Muslim worshipers’ access to Al-Aqsa during Jewish holidays
The Israeli authorities also closed the Ibrahimi Mosque to Muslims in the West Bank city of Hebron on Wednesday and Thursday for Rosh Hashanah.
Israel is also closing the Gaza Strip’s only functioning commercial crossing – the Kerem Shalom border terminal – for four days starting Thursday for the Jewish holiday.
Khatib said that while Israel restricts the entry of Palestinians into Al-Aqsa mosque compound, it facilitates the entry of Zionist settlers into the holy site.
He said that at least 300 Zionist settlers and 120 Israeli soldiers had forced their way into the compound in the past three days.
In recent months, groups of extremist settlers – often accompanied by Israeli security forces – have repeatedly forced their way into the flashpoint compound.
The frequent violations anger Palestinian Muslims and occasionally lead to violent confrontations.
For Muslims, Al-Aqsa represents the world’s third holiest site.
Jews, for their part, refer to the area as the “Temple Mount,” claiming it was the site of two prominent Jewish temples in ancient times.
Israel occupied East Jerusalem during the 1967 Middle East War. It later annexed the city in 1980, claiming it as the capital of the Zionist state – a move never recognized by the international community.
In September 2000, a visit to the site by controversial Israeli leader Ariel Sharon sparked what later became known as the “Second Intifada” – a popular uprising against the Israeli occupation in which thousands of Palestinians were killed.
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