Israeli settlers storm Al-Aqsa complex in Jerusalem to mark Jewish New Year

Hundreds of Israeli settlers on Sunday forced their way into the flashpoint Al-Aqsa Mosque complex in occupied East Jerusalem to celebrate the Jewish New Year.

Israeli settlers observe the Rosh Hashanah (New Year) holiday from Sept. 15 to Sept. 17 this year. They will also mark the Sukkot holiday at the end of September and the Simhat Torah holiday on Oct. 6.

In a brief statement, the Jordan-run Islamic Waqf Department said 303 settlers raided the site under police protection early Sunday.

It said Israeli forces had emptied the Al-Aqsa complex from Palestinian worshippers before allowing the settlers in.

According to the statement, Palestinians under 50 years old were prevented from entering the site.

A number of Palestinians were arrested by Israeli forces from inside the complex, local sources said.

The Palestinian Foreign Ministry condemned Israeli settler incursions and provocations at the Al-Aqsa compound.

In a statement, the ministry accused the Israeli government of “employing the Jewish religious holidays and festivals to serve colonial and occupation purposes."

Palestinian group Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip, decried the settler incursions into the Al-Aqsa complex as “a continuation of the [Israeli] aggression” on the flashpoint site.

"The Palestinian people are unified in the defense of Al-Aqsa and in confronting the [Israeli] aggression," Hamas spokesman Mohammad Hamada said in a statement.

The spokesman accused the Israeli government of seeking to turn the Palestinian-Israeli conflict into "a religious battle".

There was no comment from the Israeli authorities on the report.

For Muslims, Al-Aqsa represents the world's third-holiest site. Jews, for their part, call the area the Temple Mount, saying it was the site of two ancient Jewish temples.

Israel occupied East Jerusalem, where the Al-Aqsa complex is located, during the 1967 Arab-Israeli War. It annexed the entire city in 1980 in a move never recognized by the international community.

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