JERUSALEM (AA): Dozens of Jewish settlers on Monday took over a building in the Al-Sadia neighborhood of Jerusalem’s Old City, eyewitnesses said.
“About 45 Jewish settlers, backed by Israeli police and army troops, stormed the building early Monday and began performing Talmudic rituals,” Fakhri Abu Diab, a local Palestinian activist, told Anadolu Agency.
“The three-story building, which is owned by Palestinian residents, is situated only 300 meters from the Al-Aqsa Mosque,” he said.
Israeli forces have since cordoned off the area and prevented Arab residents of the neighborhood from entering the building.
Israel occupied East Jerusalem during the 1967 Middle East War. It unilaterally annexed the city in 1980, claiming it as the capital of the Jewish state in a move never recognized by the international community.
Palestinians accuse Israel of waging an aggressive campaign to “Judaize” Jerusalem (Al-Quds) with the aim of effacing its Arab and Islamic identity and eventually expelling its Palestinian inhabitants.
– Al-Aqsa incursions
In a related development, scores of extremist Jewish settlers forced their way into East Jerusalem’s flashpoint al-Aqsa Mosque compound on Monday and Sunday, where they, too, attempted to perform religious rituals, according to a local Palestinian official.
“Over the last 24 hours, some 120 settlers — under Israeli police protection — have forced their way into the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound through the Al-Mugharbah gate,” Sheikh Azzam al-Khatib, director-general of Al-Aqsa affairs, told Anadolu Agency.
“They toured the mosque courtyard and tried to perform Talmudic rituals near the Dome of the Rock,” he said. “But Palestinian worshipers and guards stopped them from doing so.”
For Muslims, Al-Aqsa represents the world’s third holiest site. Jews, for their part, refer to the area as the “Temple Mount,” claiming it was the site of two Jewish temples in ancient times.
Some extremist Jewish groups have called for the demolition of the Al-Aqsa Mosque so that a Jewish temple might be built in its place.
In September 2000, a visit to Al-Aqsa by controversial Israeli politician Ariel Sharon sparked what later became known as the “Second Intifada,” a popular uprising against the Israeli occupation in which thousands of Palestinians were killed.