(Photo credit: Press TV)
Dozens of Israeli settlers have been forcefully entering the courtyard of the Al-Aqsa Mosque since 16 March in celebration of the Jewish holiday of Purim, which ends on 18 March.
On the morning of 17 March, occupation forces opened the Mughrabi Gate, facilitating the entry of large numbers of settlers into the Al-Aqsa courtyard, and providing them with protection as they stormed the area to perform Talmudic rituals near the mosque.
Settler groups have also been calling for large-scale, organized incursions into Al-Aqsa as the Jewish holiday nears its end.
According to an agreement signed between Israel and Jordan that dates back to the Israeli occupation of East Jerusalem in 1967, Jewish visitation of Al-Aqsa is permitted, but non-Muslim worship within the mosque compound is prohibited.
While settlers provocatively made their way through Al-Aqsa courtyard, Israeli occupation forces restricted Palestinians from entering the mosque area and prevented those already inside from moving around freely.
This comes as Israeli troops launch an arrest campaign against Palestinians in separate areas across the West Bank.
Israeli raids have resulted in the arrest of three Palestinians from Jenin and four others from Hebron. Meanwhile, three Palestinians were arrested in the Gaza Strip, east of Khan Yunis.
On 16 March, the leadership of resistance factions Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) made a joint statement during a meeting in the Lebanese capital Beirut, calling for increased resistance against Israeli forces across the occupied territories.
“Priority at this stage of national liberation requires the effort to unify resistance forces, escalate confrontation with the Israeli occupation, and force it to retreat from all Palestinian soil,” the statement said.
The call for increased resistance comes as tension heightens between Israel and the Palestinians in the occupied territories. On 15 March, Israeli occupation troops killed three Palestinian civilians on separate incidents, including teenager Nader Rayan in the occupied West Bank.
PIJ spokesperson Tareq Ezz al-Din has warned of the “serious consequences of escalating calls for settler groups to storm and desecrate the blessed Al-Aqsa Mosque,” and called on all Palestinians to make their way to the holy site to “thwart” the settlers’ plans of mass incursion into Al-Aqsa.