Skirmishes erupt as settlers storm al-Aqsa Mosque compound in occupied al-Quds
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Skirmishes erupt as settlers storm al-Aqsa Mosque compound in occupied al-Quds

Omar Kiswani, Director of al-Aqsa Mosque, said some 1,179 Jewish extremists forced their way into the holy site through the Moroccan Gate under the protection of several groups of Israeli soldiers and special police forces. The Islamic Waqf (Endowment) Organization, which manages the compound’s affairs, said in a statement that hundreds of worshipers chanted Allahu Akbar (God is the Greatest) in an expression of anger as settlers were allowed into the holy site. Israeli forces used pepper spray, and fired teargas canisters as well as stun grenades to disperse the protesting Palestinian worshipers. They even chased the worshipers as far as the entrance to the southern ceiled building. Seven worshipers were reportedly arrested and 45 were wounded during the violence.  The clashes took place as Israel marks Jerusalem Day, which commemorates the establishment of the Israeli regime’s control over the Old City in the aftermath of the June 1967 Six-Day War.  This year's holiday coincides with the final days of the Muslim holy fasting month of Ramadan. Kiswani accused Israel of violating an agreement not to allow such visits during the last days of Ramadan. Meanwhile, Hamas resistance movement has described the Israeli forces’ assault on Muslim worshipers at the al-Aqsa Mosque as a serious escalation and violation against the Muslim holy site. Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri warned in a post published on his official Twitter page that skirmishes at the mosque and Israeli assault on the Muslim worshipers would lead to dire consequences. “The rulers of the [Muslim] nation and the international community are facing a real test regarding this Israeli escalation,” Abu Zuhri said. Separately, the head of the Higher Islamic Council in Occupied Jerusalem al-Quds has strongly condemned Israeli forces’ storming of the Aqsa Mosque and attack on Muslim worshipers, describing the practices as “vengeful and aggressive.” “We are aware and know well that the Likud party is secular and not religious, and it is leaning on extremist right-wing parties to stay in power. It is a shaky government whose job is to please the radical right,” Sheikh Ikrima Sabri said. He stressed that Jewish groups’ and settlers’ break-ins at the Aqsa Mosque cannot take place without the protection of the Israeli police. The Palestinian cleric highlighted that the scenes of massive Muslim crowds at the Aqsa Mosque during Ramadan raised the ire of Israeli police, and made them storm the holy site today and show off their military arrogance. He praised all Palestinian worshipers, who defended the Aqsa Mosque and remained steadfast in the face of Israeli violations. The al-Aqsa Mosque compound sits just above the Western Wall plaza and houses both the Dome of the Rock and al-Aqsa mosque. Palestinians have repeatedly warned of Israeli attempts to change the status quo of the al-Aqsa Mosque compound. Al-Aqsa Mosque is the third holiest site in Islam. The occupied Palestinian territories have witnessed new tensions ever since US President Donald Trump announced his decision on December 6, 2017 to recognize Jerusalem al-Quds as Israel’s capital and relocate the US embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to the occupied city. On December 21, 2017, the United Nations General Assembly overwhelmingly voted in favor of a resolution that calls on the US to withdraw its controversial recognition of Jerusalem al-Quds as Israeli “capital.” In an attempt to prevent the passing of the resolution, Trump threatened reprisals against countries that backed the measure, which had earlier faced a US veto at the UN Security Council. Israel, however, rejected the world body’s resolution while thanking Trump for his decision to move the US embassy to Jerusalem al-Quds.

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