Close to 300 Israeli settlers barged into the Al-Aqsa mosque compound in occupied East Jerusalem on Tuesday on the Jewish high holiday of Yom Kippur. The settlers were accompanied by Israeli military police who protected the settlers and restricted the entry of Palestinian Muslims worshippers attempting to enter the mosque compound to perform their daily prayers.
Several media reports said that the settlers were being led by Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel and Yehuda Glick, a former member of the Israeli Knesset from the right-wing Likud party.
According to witnesses and officials, the settlers also performed Jewish religious rituals inside the compound, which is a flagrant violation of the visitation rules for Jewish visitors to the compound. There is an agreement between Israel and Jordan for joint guardianship of the Al-Aqsa mosque compound according to which Jordan has been given custodianship of the Christian and Muslim religious sites in Jerusalem. The agreement states that non-Muslims are not permitted to pray at the Al-Aqsa mosque.
Right-wing extremist Jewish settler groups believe that the area was the site of the second ancient Jewish temple. They fervently advocate for the destruction of the Al-Aqsa mosque and demand that a third Jewish temple be built in its place. More than 200 extremist Jewish settlers had earlier also stormed the Al-Alqsa mosque compound on Sunday, September 29, on the first day of the Jewish new year, Rosh Hashanah. They were also accompanied by Israeli police for their protection, as well as by Israeli agriculture minister Uri Ariel and MK Yehuda Glick.
The Al-Aqsa mosque is the third most sacred site in Islam after Mecca and Medina. It was the first Qibla in Islam, meaning the direction towards which Muslims turned to pray, before it was replaced with Mecca in Saudi Arabia.