Over 100,000 Palestinians attend Eid prayers at Al-Aqsa
Over 100,000 Palestinians attended Eid Al-Adha prayers at Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa Mosque on Tuesday morning, the city's Islamic Waqf has said.
Muslim worshippers from across Jerusalem headed toward the mosque early Tuesday morning, the Anadolu news agency reported. Al-Aqsa is the third holiest site in Islam.
The mosque's compound has been subjected to assaults by far-right Israelis in the days before the Muslim festival, which began on Tuesday.
Israeli security forces violently cleared the holy site of Palestinian worshippers on Sunday as over a thousand settlers and far-right activists stormed the compound on Sunday and Monday.
In his Eid sermon, Sheikh Ekrima Sabri, the imam of the Al-Aqsa Mosque and head of Jerusalem’s Supreme Islamic Authority, said: "We have been afflicted in these blessed days by violations of the sanctity of the Al-Aqsa Mosque. Its grounds have been desecrated by settlers yesterday and the day before."
Sabri condemned recent statements by Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett saying that Jews, as well as Muslims, would be permitted to pray on the mosque's grounds.
On Monday, Bennett appeared to walk back the statement, saying that Jews would only be permitted to "visit" the site but not pray there, adding there was "no change in the status quo".
Sabri said that Bennett "had tried to show his strength and avoid looking weak and powerless at the expense of the blessed Aqsa Mosque".
He accused the Israeli leader of "ordering violence and persecution against Muslims" adding that Bennett wanted to "start a religious war in Jerusalem with his perverse statements and support for those who stormed [the Al-Aqsa mosque]".
Israel occupied Palestinian East Jerusalem - which includes the Al-Aqsa Mosque - in 1967 and later illegally annexed the Palestinian territory, proclaiming the whole of Jerusalem part of Israel's capital.
Most of the international community does not recognise Israeli sovereignty over the whole city and Palestinians see the eastern half of Jerusalem as the capital of their future state.
Israel has this year stepped up a campaign of harassment and intimidation against Palestinians in the city – seizing homes to turn over to settlers, preventing worshippers from entering the Al-Aqsa Mosque, and allowing extremists to march through East Jerusalem and attack Palestinians.