Israel has banned visits by non-Muslims to the flashpoint Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem until the end of Ramadan.
The move followed outrage after Israeli security forces permitted about 800 settlers to pray in the compound on Tuesday morning, the sixth day of the Passover holiday, in breach of a longstanding agreement that prohibits such activity during the last 10 days of the Muslim holy month.
It remains unclear whether Israel’s increasingly empowered radical settler movement will comply with the Al-Aqsa policy. One of their leaders, far-right police minister Itamar Ben-Gvir — a notorious religious bigot with a criminal record for supporting terrorism and incitement to racism — denounced the ban. “When terrorism strikes us we must strike back with great force, not surrender to its whims,” he said.
Sheikh Ekrima Said Sabri, former grand mufti of Jerusalem and Palestine and the current preacher at Al-Aqsa, told Arab media:“Israel wants to prove that they are the ones who decide what can and cannot happen at Al-Aqsa, and we see this as an extreme violation and provocation.”
Meanwhile, there was no letup on Tuesday in Israeli violence in the occupied West Bank. The army killed two Palestinians and injured a third in the village of Deir Al-Hatab, east of Nablus, during an ambush near the Elon Moreh settlement.
Multiple media reports said that the two who died, Saud Al-Titi and Mohammed Abu Dira, were former prisoners and members of Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades, the military wing of President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah party.