Two colonial paramilitary settlers invaded the Church of the Tomb of the Virgin Mary, Gethsemane, in occupied Jerusalem on Sunday and attacked worshipers with a metal pipe, including hitting a clergyman with a metal pipe in the head.

An eyewitness to the attack said that two settlers entered the church early in the morning, wearing Jewish religious garb. They went to where the morning worshipers were gathered, and took out metal pipes with wooden handles and began hitting people with them.

The eyewitness said the two men spoke Hebrew, and shouted at the worshipers and clergy as they attacked.

Some of the worshipers were able to overpower the men and hold them while calling the police. But the Israeli police took over an hour to arrive, and one of the men slipped out and escaped.

The Church of the Virgin Mary large crypt containing the empty tomb in the Church of the Assumption is all that remains of an early 5th-century church, making it possibly the oldest near-complete religious building in Jerusalem.

The location of the Church of the Virgin Mary is across the Kidron Valley from St Stephen’s Gate in the Old City walls of Jerusalem, just before Gethsemane.

Also Sunday, 107 Israeli Jewish settlers stormed the Al-Aqsa Mosque – the third holiest site in Islam. The settlers came from the Mughrabi Gate, carried out provocative tours, performed Talmudic rituals in the courtyards of the mosque, and listened to an Israeli paramilitary leader talk about the alleged structure, under the strict protection of the Israeli occupation police. The right-wing Israeli settlers who lead these tours have long stated their plan to destroy the Mosque, and to replace it with a Jewish temple.

These provocations are meant to anger and provoke the Muslim worshipers, and to desecrate the sacred site of the Muslims.

In another attack on Sunday, at the entrance to the village of Beitin, east of Ramallah, Israeli colonial paramilitary settlers threw rocks at Palestinian vehicles, breaking their windows. This attack took place under the protection of the Israeli occupation forces, who did not intervene to stop the paramilitary settlers from attacking the Palestinian civilians.