World Bulletin / News Desk
"Around 285 Jewish settlers, backed by Israeli police, stormed the holy compound via the Al-Mugharbeh gate," Sheikh Azzam al-Khatib, director-general of Al-Aqsa affairs, said.
"They toured the compound’s courtyards, passing by the Al-Qibali Mosque and the Dome of the Rock [mosque], outside of which they performed Talmudic rituals," he said.
According to Al-Khatib, the settlers were confronted by hundreds of Palestinian Muslim worshippers who eventually forced them to leave the 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 Jewish temples in ancient times.
Some extremist Jewish groups have called for the destruction of the Al-Aqsa Mosque so that a Jewish temple might be built in its place.
In a similar development on Tuesday, hundreds of Jewish settlers entered a religious site in the West Bank city of Nablus, triggering clashes with Palestinian residents.
"Roughly 1,500 Jewish settlers forced their way into the site, where they performed Talmudic rituals," Ahmed Shamekh, an official at the nearby Balata Palestinian refugee camp said.
Shamekh said scores of Palestinian youths -- who had gathered at the site to protest the incursion -- had been dispersed by Israeli soldiers firing teargas, rubber bullets and heavy ammunition.
The site, which Jews refer to as "Joseph's Tomb", has long been a flashpoint for violence.
Jews believe it to be the burial place of the biblical patriarch Joseph. Muslims, however, challenge this assertion, saying an Islamic cleric -- Sheikh Yussef Dawiqat -- was buried at the site two centuries ago.