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The New Arab

Israelis visit Aqsa compound in record numbers for Jewish holiday

Israeli police said the number of Jewish visitors was the largest in recent years. [Getty]

Date of publication: 2 August, 2017

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More than 1,000 Israelis visited the sensitive al-Aqsa Mosque compound on Tuesday to mark the Tisha B'av Jewish holiday, days after violence shook the city following tensions at the site.
More than one thousand Israelis visited the sensitive al-Aqsa Mosque compound on Tuesday to mark the Tisha B'av Jewish holiday, days after violence shook the city following tensions at the site.

New Israeli security measures installed following a deadly 14 July shooting had inflamed tensions in Jerusalem and the region, leading to deadly clashes and mass protests by Palestinians before they were eventually removed.

Israeli police said the number of Jewish visitors on Tuesday, mostly from far-right national religious groups, was the largest in a single day in recent years.

Far-right Jewish religious groups in Israel claimed it was largest number since Israel occupied East Jerusalem in 1967.

Nine Jewish visitors were removed from the compound, known to Jews as the Temple Mount, for violating the guidelines.

Azzam al-Khatib, director of the Waqf institution which administers the site, said the number of Jewish visitors was "unprecedented, unacceptable and should stop."

Palestinian Authority Foreign Minister Riad Malki, who was speaking at a meeting of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation in Istanbul, condemned the "annual massive assault against al-Aqsa on the occasion of the anniversary of the so-called destruction of the temple."

Israel's Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef also released a statement saying Jews who visited the site were "desecrating its holiness" and violating Jewish custom, which prohibits Jews visiting and praying at the site.

On Monday night, thousands of Jews attended prayers at the Western Wall in Jerusalem to observe the start of the Tisha B'av fasting day, which commemorates the destruction of two Jewish temples believed to have been located at the site.

Last week, dozens of prominent far-right national-religious rabbis called on Jews to visit the al-Aqsa Mosque compound to "strengthen our hold on this holy place," The Jerusalem Post reported.

The Yeraeh organization, a far-right Israeli group that advocates the destruction of the al-Asqa Mosque and the rebuilding of a Jewish Temple, says more than 17,000 Jews have visited the compound since last October.

The numbers, which are not verified by Israeli authorities, would mark a 15 percent increase over the previous year.


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