Violating a status quo forbidding such incursions in the last 10 days of Ramadan, Israeli security services on Monday allowed settlers to enter Al-Aqsa Mosque, which led to increasing the tension in West Bank on Tuesday.
And as violence continued, the Israeli army killed two Palestinians and injured a third in the village of Deir Al-Hatab, east of Nablus, during an ambush on Tuesday near the Elon Moreh settlement.
Palestinian sources said that the pair who died — security officer Saud Al-Titi and Mohammed Abu Dira — were ex-prisoners and members of Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades, the military wing of President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah party.
Meanwhile, settler visits to the mosque continued for the sixth day of the Jewish Passover holiday with around 800 of them praying there.
Sources in the Islamic Waqf Department in Jerusalem told Arab News that since the beginning of the Passover, 3,430 settlers had visited Al-Aqsa, while the mosque had been transformed into a military barracks by the Israeli army.
During this period, Muslim worshippers inside the mosque had been forcibly dispersed and subjected to gas bombs, rubber bullets, and severe beatings, one of the sources said, adding that 440 Palestinians were arrested.
The settlers visited Islam’s third-holiest site from 7 a.m. to 11:30 a.m., breaking for the first time in 20 years an agreement to stay away.
Sheikh Ekrima Sa’id Sabri, the former grand mufti of Jerusalem and Palestine and the current preacher at Al-Aqsa, told Arab News that according to the historical agreement, non-Muslims “are forbidden from visiting the compound during the last 10 days of Ramadan. For the first time, this agreement has been violated, and Israel allowed extremist Jews to visit the compound.”
He said: “Israel wants to prove that they are the ones who decide what can and cannot happen at Al-Aqsa, and we see this as an extreme violation and provocation.”
Israeli police deployed in the Old City of Jerusalem set up military checkpoints on roads leading to Al-Aqsa, imposed restrictions on the doors of the mosque, prevented young men from entering it to perform the dawn prayer, confiscated the identities of some of the worshippers after searching them, and barred the admission of those aged under 55.
Palestinian factions have called on Muslim worshippers to carry on visiting Al-Aqsa to defend it, especially in the last 10 days of Ramadan.
Majdi Halabi, a Palestinian expert on Israeli affairs, told Arab News that the Jordanian-Israeli agreement on Al-Aqsa did not allow Israeli police to expel worshippers from the mosque or stipulate what age groups could be allowed in to pray.
Halabi said the police had the power to obtain a decision from the Israeli courts to prevent Israeli extremist elements from entering Al-Aqsa on the basis that they endangered public peace and the security situation.
“This is not tourism to Al-Aqsa, as stipulated in the Jordanian-Israeli agreement, but rather a provocation and challenge to Muslim worshippers,” he added.
Meanwhile, in Jerusalem, Israeli security forces arrested a young man and a woman from Shuafat refugee camp.
The Israeli army also stormed Jenin and arrested five young men from its camp. Violent clashes broke out between the youth and soldiers, leaving two Palestinians with bullet wounds. Another young man was also held in the old part of Hebron.
The army has continued to tighten its military measures in the Jordan Valley in the northern West Bank for four consecutive days, causing traffic jams at the Tayaseer and Hamra military checkpoints.
Palestinian commuters have recently been disrupted by Israeli forces’ operations in several areas, especially Frush Beit Dajan village. And sources reported that the Israeli army had opened fire on a Palestinian near the Kiryat Arba settlement in Hebron.
Separately, on Tuesday, settlers rioted on the main street in Tuqu’, southeast of Bethlehem.