Saturday, November 27, 2021

Hundreds of Jews Visit the Holy Site in Jerusalem

JERUSALEM – Hundreds of Jewish pilgrims visited a disputed Jerusalem holy site under heavy police guard on Sunday, shortly after Muslim worshipers clashed with Israeli security forces at the Flashpoint shrine.

No casualties were reported, but the incident sparked tension again in the mountain complex revered by Jews and Muslims. Heavy clashes at the site earlier this year helped spark an 11-day war between Israel and Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip.

Jews regard this site as Temple Mount, where biblical temples once stood. It is the holiest site in Judaism. Today, it is home to the Al-Aqsa Mosque, the third holiest site in Islam. Tension on campus has often turned into violence over the years.

The Jews were going to mark Tisha Bav, a day of mourning and repentance, when Jews reflected on the destruction of the First and Second Temples, major events in Jewish history.

The Islamic Waqf, which operates the site, said about 1,500 Jews entered the complex – a lot more than on normal days. It accused Israeli police of using heavy-handed tactics and said some visitors violated the long-standing status quo by preventing Jews from praying at the site.

Before the visit, Israeli police said a small group of Muslim youth pelted stones at security forces, who immediately secured the area. Amateur videos showed police firing rubber bullets, a common crowd-control tactic and Muslim worshipers were barred from entering the premises for several hours.

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In a statement, Wafak accused Israel of “violating the sanctity” of the mosque by allowing “Jewish extremists to storm the mosque, conduct provocative tours and conduct public prayers and rituals”.

It said the area is a “completely Islamic mosque that will not accept division or partnership.”

The visit took place a few days before Muslims celebrated Eid al-Adha, or the Feast of Sacrifice.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’s spokesman, Nabil Abu Radenah, accused Israel of “dragging the region into a religious war”.

Jordan, which serves as a custodian at Muslim sites in Jerusalem, said it had sent a letter of protest to Israel and urged it to respect the status quo.

“Israeli actions against the mosque are condemned and condemned,” Jordanian Foreign Ministry spokesman Daiflalah al-Fayaz said.

Israel’s new prime minister, Naftali Bennett, praised the police for their handling of the visit and vowed to protect “freedom of worship” for Jews and Muslims at the site.

His comments sparked speculation that Israel was trying to change the site’s criteria to allow Jewish prayer.

But Public Security Minister Omar Bar-Lev told Channel 13 that Israel remains committed to the status quo and that Jewish prayers at the site are “against the law”.

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