Hundreds of extremist settlers have stormed the al-Aqsa Mosque compound in the occupied Old City of East Jerusalem al-Quds amid an escalation of violence by Israeli forces and settlers against Palestinian people.
Palestinian sources, requesting not to be named, said more than 320 Israeli settlers entered the site through the Moroccan Gate under tight protection of several groups of Israeli soldiers and special police forces.
The sources added that the settlers toured the compound and performed prayers on the fifth day of the Jewish week-long Passover holiday.
The sources further noted that Israeli forces had erected checkpoints along streets and alleyways around the al-Aqsa Mosque compound. The movement of locals was also blocked off with iron barriers and sandbags.
In addition, Israeli troops searched Muslim worshipers and checked their identity cards before allowing them to enter the site.
The al-Aqsa Mosque compound sits just above the Western Wall plaza and houses both the Dome of the Rock and al-Aqsa mosque.
Palestinians have repeatedly warned of Israeli attempts to change the status quo of the al-Aqsa Mosque compound. Al-Aqsa Mosque is the third holiest site in Islam.
The occupied Palestinian territories have witnessed new tensions ever since US President Donald Trump announced his decision on December 6, 2017 to recognize Jerusalem al-Quds as Israel’s capital and relocate the US embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to the occupied city.
On December 21, 2017, the United Nations General Assembly overwhelmingly voted in favor of a resolution that calls on the US to withdraw its controversial recognition of Jerusalem al-Quds as Israeli “capital.”
In an attempt to prevent the passing of the resolution, Trump threatened reprisals against countries that backed the measure, which had earlier faced a US veto at the UN Security Council.
Israel, however, rejected the world body’s resolution while thanking Trump for his decision to move the US embassy to Jerusalem al-Quds.