OCCUPIED JERUSALEM: Over 300 Jewish settlers Wednesday forced their way into the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound under the protection of Israeli police before the latter closed the area off to the settlers amid mounting tensions at the holy site.
The settlers’ entry into the area, which triggered clashes between Israeli police and Palestinian Muslim worshippers, represents “an unacceptable escalation,” Sheikh Azzam al-Khatib, director-general of the Organization for Muslim Endowments and Al-Aqsa Affairs (run by the Jordanian government), told Anadolu Agency.
In a statement, the Israeli police said they had closed the compound to settlers following the clashes that had erupted at the site earlier between Palestinians and Israeli troops.
But according to witnesses, it was Israeli police that had facilitated the settlers’ intrusion into the compound.
At least three Turkish nationals were injured in the violence. “Israeli police assaulted a group of Turkish nationals inside the [Al-Aqsa] complex, injuring three of them,” Al-Aqsa Foundation for Endowment and Heritage spokesman Mahmoud Abu Atta told Anadolu Agency.
The trio was taken to Jerusalem’s Al-Makassed Hospital for treatment, he said.
The developments come as Israel marks its so-called “Jerusalem Day,” which is celebrated every year on Iyar 28 of the Hebrew calendar, to commemorate the “reunification” of the holy city in June 1967 when it was captured by Israeli forces.
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on May 29, 2014, on page 9.