Israeli soldiers forcefully entered the courtyard of Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem’s Old City on Monday afternoon, 28 May. The mosque, regarded as the third holiest site in Islam, was surrounded by close to 200 Israeli soldiers as they entered via Dung Gate (Bab al-Maq’rabeh) and raised a 3-meter high Israeli flag in the courtyard in celebration of the Shavuot ( Jewish harvest holiday).
The soldiers, scaling the mosque, then amassed on its roof and screamed “the Temple Mount, the Temple Mount” as they danced.
When Mosque volunteers attempted to intervene in the display, a verbal fight broke out between them and the soldiers. Police then arrived to escort the soldiers out of the Al-Aqsa complex, as tensions ran high throughout the Palestinian and Jewish areas of the Old City. Sheikh Azam al-Khatib of Al-Aqsa denounced the raising of the Israeli flag inside Al-Aqsa as a “provocative and dangerous act” in a climate of already heightened tensions. He stated that he has been in touch with police about pressing charges against those responsible.
The incursion is the second in two weeks, with a group of 85 uniformed soldiers entering Al-Aqsa Mosque on 21 May this year, in coordination with police. A group of 88 right-wing Israeli extremists were also permitted by police to enter Al-Aqsa as part of a “foreign tourism” program.