Jewish worshippers enter, pray at Al Aqsa in Jerusalem despite coronavirus lockdown

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Ultra-Orthodox Jewish worshippers entered the Al Aqsa compound on Sunday, according to witnesses, despite the site closing on Friday after Israel implemented a strict coronavirus lockdown.

The group prayed around Jerusalem’s Al Aqsa compound, which houses six mosques including the ancient Dome of the Rock, in commemoration of the Jewish New Year, known as Rosh Hashanah.

Described as “religious settlers,” the individuals were “heavily guarded by Israeli police” and “performed rituals and provocative tours,” according to the Palestine News and Info Agency, which is linked to the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO).

The controversial visit comes after the Israeli government ordered a second coronavirus lockdown on Friday, ordering all residents to stay within 1,000 meters of their homes for three weeks.

Al Aqsa’s religious authorities announced Friday it would close for three weeks. However witnesses reported Jewish worshippers on the site on Sunday morning.

Known in Islam as Haram al-Sharif (translated as The Noble Sanctuary), the site is called the Temple Mount in the religion of Judaism.

In ancient times, a Jewish temple - built and destroyed twice - stood in the area.

A Palestinian man walks outside the Dome of the Rock Mosque in Jerusalem's al-Aqsa compound on July 9, 2020. (AFP)
A Palestinian man walks outside the Dome of the Rock Mosque in Jerusalem's al-Aqsa compound on July 9, 2020. (AFP)

While most Jewish worshippers pray at the Western Wall in Jerusalem, many right-wing religious Jewish people have insisted on praying inside the Al Aqsa compound in recent years, causing uproar within the local and international Muslim community who say the action violates the status quo.

Jordan, which maintains custodianship of Al Aqsa, condemned “continuous Israeli violations” at the space earlier this month after Israeli authorities installed loudspeakers on the premises.

Al Arabiya English reached out to the Israeli Prime Minister's office for comment on the matter and was directed to the Israeli police department, which had not responded at the time of publication.

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