A Palestinian worshipper is arrested at al-Aqsa Mosque, February 18, 2019. Photo credit: Wadi Hilweh Information Center.

Israeli forces attempted to close Bab al-Rahmah Gate in Jerusalem’s Old City.

At night on Sunday, February 17, 2019, Israeli forces closed Bab al-Rahmah Gate in the eastern area of al-Aqsa Mosque Compound in Jerusalem’s Old City. Israeli forces closed the gate using chains and locks.

The following day after noon prayers, Palestinians protested the closure of Bab al-Rahmah Gate. Hundreds of worshippers prayed in front of the gate and some attempted to force it open.

Along with assaulting a group of Palestinian men, Israeli police arrested five Palestinian worshippers and one member of the Islamic Waqf, according to the Wadi Hilweh Information Center.

Israeli forces then closed all of the gates leading to al-Aqsa Mosque for half an hour and evacuated the compound by force. At the same time, Israeli police facilitated the entry of around 70 Jewish Israeli settlers through Bab al-Magharib, reports Middle East Eye.

Palestinian political parties and movements condemned Israeli authorities’ attempt to close Bab al-Rahmah Gate. The Palestinian Authority and Jordan also condemned Israeli police activity at the Mosque.

The Islamic Waqf is responsible for maintaining al-Aqsa’s “status quo,” an agreement reached between Israel and Jordan following the 1967 Israeli occupation of Jerusalem. The agreement stipulates that al-Aqsa is reserved for Muslims worship, though people of other religions may visit the holy site as a sightseeing activity. Palestinians and Waqf officials warn that Israeli settler and police incursions are a step toward unilaterally changing the political status quo of al-Aqsa and occupied Jerusalem.

Ahmad Jaradat is the Senior Project Coordinator of the Alternative Information Center (AIC).