Israel: Ultra-nationalists storm Al-Aqsa and raise Israeli flag on independence day
Hundreds of Israelis stormed Al-Aqsa Mosque in occupied East Jerusalem on Wednesday morning and raised the Israeli flag, as the country marks 75 years of statehood.
Flanked by soldiers, ultra-nationalist Israelis entered the courtyard through the Mughrabi Gate. At the same time, security forces imposed entry restrictions on Palestinians.
News website Arab48 reported that security officers removed a girl and four young men from the mosque in conjunction with the Israeli incursion.
Israel is this week marking its 75th anniversary of statehood, a date that holds different significance for Palestinians: known as the Nakba or "catastrophe," it marks the expulsion of more than 700,000 Palestinians from their historic homeland.
Israeli security forces said that the occupied West Bank and Gaza would be closed off during the memorial celebrations.
According to the Times of Israel, the closure was set to begin on Monday at 5 pm and last until midday on Wednesday.
The military said the crossings would reopen “subject to a situational assessment”.
The move comes amid heightened tensions, with Israeli police forces earlier this month removing Palestinian worshippers from Al-Aqsa Mosque as they observed the holy month of Ramadan.
Israeli forces regularly empty Al-Aqsa Mosque of Palestinians outside the five Muslim prayer times, especially overnight and after the dawn prayer, to ensure a smooth incursion of Israeli settlers.
According to decades-long international agreements, known as the status quo, Al-Aqsa Mosque is an Islamic site where unsolicited visits, prayers and rituals by non-Muslims are forbidden.
Israeli groups, in coordination with Israeli authorities, have long violated the delicate arrangement and facilitated daily raids of the site, performing prayers and religious rituals without permission from Palestinians or Jordan, which is the custodian of Islamic and Christian sites in Jerusalem.
Israeli forces meanwhile restrict who can enter Al-Aqsa Mosque and when they can go inside, in what Palestinians say is a violation of the longstanding agreements allowing Muslim prayer at the site.