The settlers entered the compound on Sunday morning amid a heavy military deployment of Israeli soldiers to mark the Passover holiday and perform Talmudic prayers.
The Jewish religious occasion coincides with the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan at a time when thousands of Muslims, predominantly Palestinians, usually stay at the holy site for worship day and night.
Videos circulating online showed Palestinians throwing rocks and firecrackers and Israeli forces firing tear gas and stun grenades.
The Palestine Red Crescent Society (PRCS) said its medics treated at least 17 injuries following the Israeli raid on the holy site, of whom three were admitted to hospital.
The official Palestinian Wafa news agency reported that the attacking Israeli forces chased the worshipers and fired stun grenades and teargas randomly to empty the holy site of its Muslim worshipers in order to allow the entry of settlers wishing to celebrate Passover inside the courtyards of the al-Aqsa Mosque.
At least three arrests were reported among the Palestinian worshipers.
Hamas issues strongly worded statement in support of al-Aqsa Mosque
In a statement, the Gaza-based Hamas resistance movement warned Israel against the repercussions of its atrocities in al-Aqsa Mosque.
“Al-Aqsa Mosque is a red line and the occupying Israeli regime is responsible for assaults on worshipers and allowing occupiers to desecrate the site. We hold Israel responsible for attacks against worshipers inside al-Aqsa Mosque and the inevitable consequences,” Hamas also said in a statement.
The statement noted that the Tel Aviv regime’s decision to give Israeli settlers a free hand to attack the al-Aqsa Mosque and desecrate its shrines will unavoidably hurt the feelings of all Palestinians, Arabs as well as Muslims, and will provoke their wrath.
“The continuation of attacks on Muslim worshipers and desecration of al-Quds will have adverse effects for both the occupying regime and settlers. Our people will stand firm against the occupier and its crimes. Their finger will remain on the trigger to defend al-Quds and the al-Aqsa Mosque. They will thwart the sinister plans of the occupiers at any cost,” Hamas said.
‘A new Operation al-Quds Sword to be much more intense than previous one’
Moreover, a member of Hamas political bureau warned Israeli authorities against raids on the al-Aqsa Mosque and letting settlers desecrate the site.
“Hamas has informed the mediators that any fatalities inside the al-Aqsa Mosque will issue a declaration of war, and that a new Operation al-Quds Sword will be much more intense and severe than the previous one,” Haroun Nasser al-Din said.
He stressed that Hamas is aware of the Israeli regime’s sacrilegious moves and will not allow the al-Aqsa Mosque to be desecrated and defiled.
“What is happening at al-Aqsa Mosque is an attempt by the [Israeli] enemy to implement its plan aimed at partitioning the mosque, and is a step towards the rebuilding of the Jewish Temple in the place of the al-Aqsa Mosque,” the Hamas official said.
Nasser al-Din praised the resistance of Palestinians in al-Quds, the West Bank and elsewhere across the occupied territories to thwart the Israeli regime’s plot.
Tel Aviv launched a brutal bombing campaign against the besieged Gaza Strip on May 10 last year, following Palestinian retaliation against violent raids on worshipers at al-Aqsa Mosque and the regime’s plans to force a number of Palestinian families out of their homes at the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of East Jerusalem al-Quds.
According to Gaza’s Health Ministry, 260 Palestinians were killed in the Israeli offensive, including 66 children and 40 women. At least 1,948 others were also wounded.
In response, Palestinian resistance movements, chief among them Hamas, launched Operation al-Quds Sword and fired more than 4,000 rockets and missiles into the occupied territories, killing 12 Israelis.
Apparently caught off guard by the unprecedented barrage of rockets from Gaza, Israel announced a unilateral ceasefire on May 21, which Palestinian resistance movements accepted with Egyptian mediation.