Police entered the al-Qibli chapel of al-Aqsa mosque and removed Palestinians who had barricaded themselves inside on Saturday night, after receiving information that some of those barricaded inside planned to conduct riots during planned visits by Jewish visitors on Sunday morning.
Video from the scene showed Muslim men and women praying, chanting "Allahu Akbar" and shouting at police officers as the officers removed worshippers from the building and the complex.
مشاهد من اقتحام الاحتلال للمصلى القبلي لتفريغه من المعتكفين pic.twitter.com/ZHDMdcNfl2— AlQastal القسطل (@AlQastalps) March 25, 2023
At least two Palestinians at the scene were arrested.
Palestinians attempting to enter the complex were blocked from entering the gates of the Temple Mount, according to Palestinian reports. Footage from some of the gates showed Palestinians scuffling with Israeli forces who blocked the gates.
According to police, the stay of Palestinians overnight in the mosque went against agreements made with the Waqf, adding that mosques outside the Temple Mount had been prepared for those wanting to stay overnight. Police attempted to get those barricaded inside to leave on their own accord, but most refused to leave.
"لن تركع أمّة قائدها محمّد"هتافات المعتكفين بعد إخراجهم من المسجد الأقصى المبارك بالقوة. pic.twitter.com/7DYUX5rhH0— AlQastal القسطل (@AlQastalps) March 25, 2023
No unusual incidents or violence were reported during the removal of the Palestinians.
Police stated that they removed the Palestinians as some of them were planning to conduct riots on Sunday morning during the dawn (Fajr) prayers and during visits by Jewish visitors.
On Sunday morning, dozens of Jewish visitors entered the Temple Mount complex during the morning visiting hours from 7:00-11:30 a.m. without any unusual incidents reported. During the first few weeks of Ramadan, visiting hours for Jews will be restricted to just the morning hours, without the regular afternoon hours. It is as of yet unclear if the Mount will be completely closed to Jewish visitors for the last few days of Ramadan, as it usually is.
عاجل | اللحظات الأولى لإفراغ قوات الاحتلال المسجد الأقصى من المعتكفين والاعتداء عليهم عند أبوابه. pic.twitter.com/y2UFgImfsj— AlQastal القسطل (@AlQastalps) March 25, 2023
Last year during Ramadan, Arabs at the site placed large stones and broken glass on the path taken by Jewish visitors in an attempt to block and harm them. Israeli forces entered the site early in the mornings during Ramadan last year in order to secure the site for Jewish visitors, pushing Arabs at the site into al-Aqsa and the Dome of the Rock, with Arab rioters launching fireworks and throwing rocks and Molotov cocktails towards security forces at the site.
After being forced out of the complex on Saturday night, Palestinians marched through the streets of the Old City, chanting “A nation whose leader is Muhammad will not bow down.”
Hamas expresses outrage
Ekrima Sabri, a former grand mufti of al-Aqsa, stated that "the occupation begins its frenzied campaign against the blessed Al-Aqsa mosque, and fights the worship of God in it and empties it of the seclusion worshipers."
Hamas spokesman, Abd al-Latif al-Qanou, condemned the removal of Palestinians, stating "The occupation forces' storming of Al-Aqsa and attempts to remove the worshipers from it is a dangerous escalation whose consequences the occupation will bear, and we call upon the masses of our people to set out on their journeys and to gather in its squares."
Hamas's spokesman in Jerusalem, Muhammad Hamadeh, expressed outrage at the removal of Palestinians from al-Aqsa, stating "the Zionist attack on the worshipers in Al-Aqsa, on this night of the blessed month of Ramadan, and assaulting them, is a crime against freedom of worship and an episode in a continuous series of aggression against worshipers and Al-Aqsa."
"Prayer and i'tikaaf in the blessed Al-Aqsa Mosque is a right for our people that will be defended at all times and by all means, and the pressure and terror of the occupation will not succeed, nor deceive others from stopping the i'tikaaf at Al-Aqsa."
In recent days, Palestinian media launched a campaign titled "We will break the fast in Jerusalem," encouraging Palestinians to break the daily Ramadan fast at al-Aqsa mosque and to increase the Muslim presence at the site.
The attempts to sleep overnight in the mosque come after Najeh Bakirat, the deputy director-general of the Wakf in Jerusalem, has called in recent days for large numbers of Palestinians to conduct Itikaf, a practice in which Muslims stay within a mosque for multiple days, at al-Aqsa Mosque during Ramadan.
"I'tikaaf is the only and best way to confront the occupation and its plans," said Bakirat, according to Palestinian media. "The occupation can only be deterred by continuing and steadfast in the lands and courtyards of al-Aqsa Mosque."
Bakirat warned that the situation is "more dangerous than ever before," stating that "things will be hot this year as a result of the daily attacks that escalated in al-Aqsa Mosque."
On Friday, about 100,000 Muslim worshippers arrived at al-Aqsa Mosque and the Temple Mount for the first Friday afternoon prayers of the month of Ramadan, with thousands of police reinforcements operating in the area to keep the peace.
The prayers were conducted without any reported violence or disturbances.
Friday afternoon prayers
After the Friday afternoon prayers, a small group of young men chanted "Put sword against sword. We are Mohammad Deif's men!" on the Temple Mount and held a banner expressing support for Palestinian terrorist groups. The banner and a number of Hamas flags were hung up near the Dome of the Rock. One of the individuals who raised the flags was arrested after exiting the site and additional individuals were expected to be arrested as well.
Later in the afternoon, police entered the Temple Mount and removed the banner and the flags. Palestinians at the scene chanted slogans and jeered at the police officers.