Where is Al-Aqsa Mosque and why is it so important in Islam? – Middle East Monitor

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The Israeli police raid on the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem on Wednesday provoked a furious reaction from Palestinians across the Occupied West Bank and the Arab and Muslim world in general.

Where and what is the Al-Aqsa Mosque?

The Al-Aqsa is in the heart of the Old City of Jerusalem on a hill called Har ha-Bayit, or Temple Mount, to the Jews, and to Muslims internationally as Al-Haram Al-Sharif, or The Noble Sanctuary.

Muslims regard the site as the third holiest place in Islam, after Mecca and Medina. Al-Aqsa is the name given to the entire compound and contains two Muslim holy places: the Dome of the Rock and the Al-Aqsa Mosque, also known as the Qibli Mosque, built in the 8th century, AD.

The Western Wall is viewed, a holy place of prayer for Jews, whose holiest site is the Temple Mount. The Jews of the Bible believe King Solomon built the first temple there 3,000 years ago. The Romans built the second temple in 70 AD.

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Israel captured the site in the 1967 Middle East war and annexed the rest of East Jerusalem and parts of the nearby West Bank in a move not recognized internationally.

The Muslim and Christian sites are maintained by Jordan’s ruling Hashemite family, who appoint members of the Waqf institution that oversees the site.

Why is Al-Aqsa a flashpoint in the conflict between Israel and Palestine?

The Al-Aqsa compound has long been a flashpoint for deadly violence over sovereignty and religious issues in Jerusalem.

Under the long-standing “status quo” arrangement that governs the area, which Israel says it maintains, non-Muslims can visit but only Muslims are allowed to worship in the Mosque compound.

Jewish visitors have been praying more or less openly at the site against the rules, and Israeli restrictions on Muslim worshipers’ access to the site have led to protests and outbreaks of violence.

Protests on the ground in 2021 set off a 10-day war with Gaza.

Watch: Israeli warplanes hit Gaza after raid on Al-Aqsa Mosque

In 2000, the Israeli politician, Ariel Sharon, the leader of the opposition at the time, led a group of Israeli armed troops to the Al-Haram Al-Sharif/Temple Mount complex. Palestinians protested, and a violent confrontation ensued that quickly escalated into the second Palestinian uprising, also known as the Al-Aqsa Intifada.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.

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