JERUSALEM, July 26, 2015 (WAFA) – Dozens of Muslim worshipers Sunday were injured, while many suffocated by tear gas during clashes that erupted with Israeli police at Jerusalem’s al-Aqsa Mosque compound, after groups of Jewish hardliners broke into the Islamic holy site to mark Tisha B’Av holiday, according to local sources and witnesses.
WAFA correspondent said clashes erupted at the compound after around 30 groups of Jewish hardliners protected by special police forced their way into the site in groups to mark the so-called Destruction of the Temple holiday.
This came after Jewish settler groups, known as ‘Temple Mount’ organizations, made calls urging all Jewish settlers to storm the holy site to mark Tisha B’Av Day, a Jewish holiday commemorating the ‘destruction of the temple’.
The organizations reportedly demanded that Al-Aqsa be entirely closed to Muslims starting Saturday evening and all day Sunday. They also requested the holy site to be closed to Muslims during proposed provocative Israeli visit hours from 7:30 to 11:30 a.m. from Monday to Thursday next week.
In response to these calls, Israeli police shut down the mosque compound since 7:00 AM before Muslims’ entry to allow settlers into the compound. Hours later, only worshipers above the age of 50 were allowed entry.
Police further took finger prints of worshipers before granting them access into the compound.
The entry of settlers provoked worshipers, who gathered to defend the site, spurring clashes with police, who provided protection to settlers.
Police fired teargas canisters and stun grenades towards the Muslim worshipers, who responded by chanting religious slogans and throwing rocks and shoes at them. Several properties and a number of the mosque’s gates were destroyed during the assault.
Police further attacked the southern building located within the compound, known as al-Qibli mosque, after surrounding it and forcing its guards out, attacking one of them. Police closed the building’s gate with metal chains and prevented worshipers from entering.
Furthermore, police physically assaulted and beat up a number of worshipers, including women and elderly, during its assault. A woman, a child, and a youth were also arrested by the police outside the mosque compound.
Among the hardliners who entered was Israel’s Minister of Agriculture Uri Ariel.
Yesterday, Israeli police went on high alert in and around the Old City of Jerusalem and al-Aqsa Mosque after a video of a Jewish woman insulting Prophet Mohammad went viral over the weekend.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs condemned the Israeli assault against the holy site, calling upon the Arab and Muslim countries to immediately intervene to safeguard the mosque and other holy Muslim and Christian sites in Jerusalem.
The Grand Mufti of Jerusalem Mohammad Hussein, who was present at al-Aqsa during the Israeli assault on the compound, also warned of the repercussion of this Israeli attack, stressing that recurrence of violations against the holy site could transform the region into a “time bomb”, and warned of a religious war.
Today’s clashes are the most violent since November 2014, when Israeli police raged a crackdown against worshipers there and entered the southern building.
The move was then faced by angry Jordan, whose Islamic Waqf is in charge of monitoring daily activity in al-Aqsa Mosque, that warned to reevaluate its diplomatic ties with Israel, including its 20-year peace accord, in light of what it termed Israeli “violations” on the site.
Jews refer to the site as the “Temple Mount,” claiming it was the site of two Jewish temples destroyed in ancient times. The site is home to the third holiest mosque in Islam, and houses the al-Aqsa Mosque Building and the Dome of the Rock.
The site has witnessed recurrent clashes in recent years between Muslim worshipers and Israeli police, most frequently due to provocative visits by Jewish extremists who believe the mosque should be destroyed and replaced with a Jewish temple.