Al-Aqsa Mosque was reopened to prayers following a 70-day shutdown due to the coronavirus pandemic. (Photo: via Social Media)
On May 31, Sunday, dozens of extremist Jewish Israeli settlers invaded the Al-Aqsa mosque premises in occupied Jerusalem under the protection of Israeli police. This was hours after the mosque reopened after a 70-day lockdown and just before Muslim worshipers could enter the compound to offer prayers.
The director of Al-Aqsa mosque, Omar Kiswani, told Anadolu Agency, “Around 105 Jewish settlers have entered the compound since early morning under protection of Israeli police.” The Israeli police also arrested three Palestinians – one young man and two women – without providing any cause or reasons for their arrest.
The Al-Aqsa mosque in occupied Jerusalem was closed due to the COVID-19 threat for the last 70 days. Palestinian WAFA news agency reported that worshipers subsequently entered the compound on Sunday with celebratory chants after all the buildings in the mosque compound were re-opened to enable necessary social distancing measures to avoid further coronavirus spread.
Earlier, on May 29, Friday, Israeli forces had illegally and forcibly raided the home of the president of the Supreme Islamic Council and cleric of Al-Aqsa mosque, Sheikh Ekrima Sabri, in occupied East Jerusalem and arrested him. He has been accused of instigating and encouraging Palestinian citizens to pray in the mosque while it was closed. In reality, the 79-year-old cleric had only called on his fellow Palestinians to “prepare themselves to defend Al-Aqsa from any threats in the coming days.”
Israeli extremist Jewish settlers claim the site of the Al-Aqsa mosque as originally a Jewish temple and call it the “temple mount.” Some sections even advocate destruction of the mosque and demand that a Jewish temple be built in its place.
Over the past year, there have been a number of instances of Israeli settlers violently invading the Al-Aqsa mosque complex. In many of these cases, they have received the backing of the Israeli security forces and politicians.