World Bulletin / News Desk
Scores of Jewish settlers – led by two government ministers and backed by Israeli police – forced their way into the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in occupied East Jerusalem on Wednesday, triggering clashes with Palestinians inside, a Palestinian compound guard has said.
"Ninety-three settlers protected by 40 Israeli police and special forces forced their way into the holy compound through the Al-Magharbeh Gate," the guard, who asked not to be named, told Anadolu Agency.
The Jewish settlers were accompanied by Israeli Housing Minister Uri Ariel and Internal Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch, in addition to several Jewish extremist leaders.
In response, some 300 Palestinian Muslim worshipers converged near the Al-Qibali and the Dome of the Rock mosques to protest the intrusion, the guard said.
In a bid to disperse angry Palestinians, Israeli forces fired rubber bullets and teargas, he added.
"At least 16 Palestinians were injured by rubber bullets, including one in the head and two in the abdomen. Around 45 others suffered teargas inhalation," the guard said.
According to Sheikh Omar al-Qiswani, the Palestinian director of the Al-Aqsa complex, the two ministers took a tour of the compound's courtyards, passing by the Dome of the Rock, Qibali and Marawani mosques before leaving through the Al-Rahmeh Gate.
Israeli police have stepped up security at the gates of the Al-Aqsa complex for the second day in a row, barring a number of Palestinians from entering the compound, al-Qiswani said.
"Except for the Al-Magharbeh Gate, where [Jewish] settlers regularly force their way into the complex, the Israeli police closed all other gates with chains," al-Qiswani said.
Jews will celebrate "Rosh Hashanah" on Wednesday, which will mark the first day of the new Jewish year of 5775.
Groups of Jewish extremists called for marking the holiday by storming the Al-Aqsa compound and performing Talmudic rituals.
In recent months, groups of extremist Jewish settlers, often accompanied by Israeli security forces, have stepped up their intrusions into the Al-Aqsa Mosque complex, the world's third holiest site for Muslims.
Jews refer to Al-Aqsa as the "Temple Mount," claiming the area was the site of two prominent Jewish temples in ancient times.
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 holy city in 1980, claiming Jerusalem as the unified capital of the self-proclaimed Jewish 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 and injured.Last Mod: 24 Eylül 2014, 14:37