JERUSALEM: Dozens of Israeli settlers forced their way into East Jerusalem’s flashpoint Al-Aqsa Mosque compound on Sunday, according to a Palestinian official.
“More than 150 Jewish settlers stormed the holy compound through the Al-Mugharbah gate,” Firas al-Dibs, a spokesman for Jerusalem Islamic Waqf, a Jordan-run organization responsible for overseeing the city’s Islamic sites, said in a brief statement.
He said the settlers were joined by a number of Israeli policemen during the tour.
Israeli Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel was among those who toured the holy compound, according to al-Dibs. Tension has mounted in the Palestinian territories — including occupied East Jerusalem, where the Al-Aqsa is located — since U.S. President Donald Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
For Muslims, the 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.
Israel occupied East Jerusalem during the 1967 Middle East War. It annexed the entire city in 1980, claiming it as the capital of the Jewish state in a move never recognized by the international community.
Last year, the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution calling on the U.S. to withdraw its recognition of the flashpoint city as Israel’s capital.
Also, a letter published by The Guardian, a British daily, signed by 140 musicians, writers, actors, directors, novelists, and poets demanded the song contest to be boycotted if it is “hosted by Israel while it continues its grave, decades-old violations of Palestinian human rights.”
Among those who signed the letter were 6 Israeli artists Aviad Albert, Michal Sapir, Ohal Grietzer, Yonatan Shapira, Danielle Ravitzki and David Opp.
“We, the undersigned artists from Europe and beyond, support the heartfelt appeal from Palestinian artists to boycott the Eurovision Song Contest 2019 hosted by Israel,” the letter read.
The letter said that “until Palestinians can enjoy freedom, justice and equal rights, there should be no business-as-usual with the state that is denying them their basic rights.”
“On 14 May, days after Israel’s Eurovision win, the Israeli army killed 62 unarmed Palestinian protesters in Gaza, including six children, and injured hundreds, most with live ammunition. (AA)