Israeli settlers, today, raided the archaeological site of Solomon’s Pools, to the south of the occupied West Bank city of Bethlehem, under the protection of heavily armed Israeli forces.

Palestinian security sources said that Israeli forces sealed off the area as settlers stormed the pools, where they performed Jewish rituals.

Jewish settlers have recently intensified their raids of Solomon’s Pools, a famous cultural site visited by many tourists around the world, in what Palestinians fear is a prelude to a takeover.

Visits by Israeli Jews to sites across the West Bank often cause tensions with local Palestinians, as these visits are accompanied by large armed escorts.

Located near the Palestinian village of Artas, Solomon’s Pools are three large cisterns — each more than 100 meters long — that were historically part of an ancient aqueduct system connected to Jerusalem.

Ottoman Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent repaired the cisterns in the 17th century and built a fortress beside them, which still stands today. Adjacent to the Pools lie the remains of an ancient Ottoman fort, set in a beautiful grove of pine and cypress trees. The actual reservoirs were in use up until 1946.

Many Jews, however, believe that the pools are named for the Biblical Solomon.

In Jerusalem, hundreds of extremist settlers broke into Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, guarded by Israeli police, according to Director of Al-Aqsa Mosque, Omar Kiswani.

Kiswani said that some 432 settlers, including students of Talmudic yeshivas, broke into the holy mosque in groups, under heavy protection from Israeli police, and went on provocative tours through the holy site.

The settlers also performed Talmudic rituals and prayers at the holy site.

He added that Israeli authorities tightened access restrictions for Palestinians in the area, under the pretext of securing protection for the settlers.

Some right-wing Israeli activists have advocated for the destruction of the compound to make way for a Third Temple.

Messianic Jewish settlers are hoping to establish an increased presence on the site of Al-Aqsa Mosque — among the most important Muslim shrines and potent symbols of Palestinian identity in the world — and calling for the construction of a third temple on what they term the “Temple Mount”.

Their far-right beliefs were once considered a small fringe movement, but, in recent years, they have found favor in the administration of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, receiving the endorsement of many lawmakers.

Settler incursions into the compound, coupled with the takeover of church property in Jerusalem, are perceived as part of the plan to transform a multi-religious and multi-cultural city into a “reunified” Jewish city under the exclusive control and sovereignty of the Israeli state, WAFA reports.

(archive photo image)