Israeli police restrict entry of Muslims to Aqsa Mosque
Israeli police on Thursday restricted the entry of Muslim worshipers to Jerusalem's flashpoint Al-Aqsa mosque, while allowing Jewish settlers accompanied by Israeli chief of police to storm it, according to a Palestinian official.
"Early this morning, Israeli police closed the Al-aqsa Mosque compound to Muslim worshipers under 40. Later on, it was closed to all Muslims," Azzam Azzam al-Khatib, director-general of Al-Aqsa Affairs, said in a statement.
"The closure coincided with the storming of a group of Jewish extremists accompanied by the chief of police Yuram Levi to tour around the mosque marking the anniversary of the killing of a Jewish settler," he added.
According to the statement, Muslim worshipers were allowed to enter the Al-Aqsa mosque following the departure of the chief of police.
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.
Israel occupied East Jerusalem during the 1967 Middle East War. It later annexed the city in 1980, claiming it as the capital of the Jewish state in a move never recognized by the international community.
In September 2000, a visit to the flashpoint religious site 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.