World Bulletin/News Desk
Israeli authorities on Tuesday restricted the entry of Muslim worshippers into Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in occupied East Jerusalem while allowing dozens of Jewish settlers in, a Palestinian official and eyewitnesses said.
A Palestinian guard of the holy site told Anadolu Agency that the Israeli police allowed groups of Jewish settlers into the complex under heavy protection through Al-Magharbeh Gate.
An eyewitness, meanwhile, said that the Israeli police restricted the entry of Muslim worshipers into the compound, forcing dozens of Palestinians to perform the dawn prayers on the streets outside the complex.
Sheikh Azzam al-Khatib, head of the Jordan-run Organization for Muslim Endowments and Al-Aqsa Affairs, told AA that the Israeli authorities barred all men under the age of 50 as well as all women from entering the compound.
"We reject these Israeli measures that could inflame the situation at the mosque and in Jerusalem," he added.
The developments came only hours after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said during a meeting with U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon that he is "committed, and Israel is committed, to maintaining the status quo exactly as it’s been for many decades" in the holy site.
He also blamed the recent tension on the site on "Palestinian extremists who are instigating violence through incitement."
"The incitement is spread by false and baseless rumors that we are threatening the Muslim holy places. Nothing could be further from the truth," he said.
Earlier, Ban, currently on a regional tour, voiced concern over what he described as "provocations" in occupied Jerusalem, hours after clashes erupted between Israeli police and Palestinian worshippers in the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound.
Speaking to a press conference in Ramallah with Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah, Ban said he was "deeply concerned by repeated provocations at the holy sites in Jerusalem. These only inflame tensions and must stop."
Ban's statements came after Deputy Knesset Speaker Moshe Feiglin – under heavy Israeli police protection –forced his way into the Al-Aqsa compound on Monday.
The intrusion came amid clashes between Muslim youth and Israeli police, the latter of which stormed the holy site in the early hours of the morning and tried to forcibly evict Palestinian worshippers from the area.
In recent months, groups of extremist Jewish settlers – usually accompanied by Israeli security forces – have repeatedly forced their way into the holy site.
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.
In September 2000, a visit to the site by controversial Israeli politician 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.
The roots of the Israel-Palestine conflict date back to 1917, when the British government, in the now-famous "Balfour Declaration," called for "the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people."
Israel occupied East Jerusalem and the West Bank 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.
Palestinians, for their part, continue to demand the establishment of an independent state in the Gaza Strip and West Bank, with East Jerusalem – currently occupied by Israel – as its capital.Güncelleme Tarihi: 14 Ekim 2014, 12:42