World Bulletin/News Desk
Scores of Jewish settlers on Monday forced their way into occupied East Jerusalem's flashpoint Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, a Palestinian official has said.
"At least 25 Jewish settlers stormed the holy compound through the Al-Magharbeh Gate under Israeli soldiers' protection," Sheikh Omar al-Qiswani, the Palestinian director of the Al-Aqsa complex, told The Anadolu Agency.
"Settlers toured the courtyards and tried to perform Talmudic rituals, but were prevented from doing so by the mosque guards," he said.
Al-Qiswani added that Israeli police stationed at one of the compound's gates had summoned Palestinian guard Mourad Mousa for interrogation.
Tension has run high in East Jerusalem since Israeli authorities briefly closed the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in late October following the shooting of an extremist rabbi in West Jerusalem.
The closure of Al-Aqsa, along with the killing by Israeli police of a young Palestinian man suspected of shooting the rabbi, has prompted angry protests by Palestinians in East Jerusalem.
Since then, 11 Israelis and 12 Palestinians killed– both inside Israel and in the occupied territories.
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 Jewish temples in ancient times.
In September 2000, a visit to Al-Aqsa by controversial Israeli politician Ariel Sharon triggered what later became known as the "Second Intifada," a popular uprising against Israel's decades-long occupation in which thousands of Palestinians were killed.
Israel occupied East Jerusalem during the 1967 Middle East War. It later annexed the holy city in 1980, claiming it as the capital of the self-proclaimed Jewish state – a move never recognized by the international community.
Some 6,500 Palestinians are currently being held in Israeli prisons
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