Settlers invading al-Aqsa (image by Ma'an news)

On Sunday, a group of around 250 armed Israeli settlers, accompanied by dozens of Israeli soldiers, invaded the al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, the third holiest site in the world for Muslims.

The Israeli settlers, mainly religious Jews, invaded the mosque as part of their celebration of the Jewish holiday of Tisha B’av. Palestinian Muslim worshipers who were present at the time of the invasion attempted to stop the invasion, and were attacked by soldiers and settlers.

The Israeli soldiers stood guarding the 250 Israelis as they moved into the holy site. Although Israeli authorities have signed numerous agreements to allow the Islamic Waqf of Jerusalem to have full jurisdiction over the al-Aqsa Mosque, Israeli soldiers control all entry into and out of the mosque.

Over the past month, Israeli authorities have detained 21 staff members of the Islamic Waqf which administers the mosque. In addition, the military has issued dozens of ‘ban orders’ against individual Palestinians, preventing them from worshiping in or entering the mosque. The Palestinians who received these bans say that the Israeli military gave them no reason for banning them from the mosque, and noted there is no way to appeal the ban.

During the invasion on Sunday, 18 Palestinians were injured, mainly by so-called ‘non-lethal’ weapons fired by the Israeli military. These weapons include rubber-coated steel bullets, concussion grenades, and tear gas.

Sheikh Omar al-Kiswani, the head of the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, told Palestinian reporters from the Ma’an news agency, “We deny Israel’s claim that these raids are just visits and tourism. Israeli settlers are constantly raiding the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound to provoke the Muslim worshipers by practicing prayers and rituals in a holy place for Muslims only. Israel is violating all international regulations by its procedures in Al-Aqsa compound.”