The Israeli Minister of Agriculture, Uri Ariel, stormed the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in occupied East Jerusalem, under protection of armed Israeli forces, on Tuesday.
Head of the public relations office at the Islamic Endowment Department, Firas al-Dibs, said that Ariel was heading a group of Israeli settlers into the Al-Aqsa compound via the Moroccan Gate, which has been under Israeli control since the occupation of Jerusalem City.
Al-Dibs pointed out that Ariel took footage of the al-Rahma Gate (Gate of Mercy) prayer area that was opened recently.
The prayer area of the al-Rahma Gate was closed on Monday evening, upon order by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and reopened on Tuesday Morning.
Israeli police forces, who were deployed around al-Rahma prayer area since the early morning hours, took footage of Palestinian guards who opened the area.
The number of Israeli MKâ€™s who storm the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound has increased, over the past few months, after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu decided to lift a ban that would previously not allow Israeli Knesset members to visit the compound every three months, after incursions were banned in October of 2015.
Netanyahu allowed members of the Knesset, mostly right-wing extremists, who support the demolition of the Islamic holy site in order to build a Jewish temple, instead, to visit the Al-Aqsa compound once every three months.
After Netanyahu lifted the ban, Palestinian Authority (PA) spokesman Youssef al-Mahmoud spoke out about the decision to lift the ban, calling it a “serious provocation” and “encouraging harm to one of Islamâ€™s holiest sites.”
However, in the past two months, MKs such as Shuli Mualem, Yehuda Glick, and Uri Ariel have repeatedly entered the compound, violating the â€śevery three months entryâ€ť, according to Ma’an.
The Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, which sits just above the Western Wall plaza, houses both the Dome of the Rock and Al-Aqsa mosque. The third holiest site in Islam, it is also venerated as Judaism’s most holy place, as it sits where Jews believe the First and Second Temples once stood.
While Jewish visitation is permitted to the compound, non-Muslim worship at Al-Aqsa is prohibited according to an agreement signed between Israel and the Jordanian government, after Israelâ€™s illegal occupation of East Jerusalem in 1967.
Chris Carlson is a student of religion at Mount Mercy University, United States, and has been a regular volunteer with the IMEMC since 2013. He assisted in providing extensive coverage of the 2014 Israeli military offensive on the Gaza Strip and continues, into the present day, with the issues at hand. He can be reached via email at c h r i s @ i m e m c . o r g.