The Supreme Leader of Iran, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, on Wednesday slammed a recent raid on the Al Aqsa Mosque compound in East Jerusalem by Israeli police, calling it an “insult.”
"The Zionist regime's crimes in Palestine and repeated insult of the sacred sanctuary of the Al Aqsa Mosque ... are the foremost problem for Muslims," a statement released by Khamenei’s official website said.
Khamenei also said the Israeli treatment of Palestinians as the "ultimate degree of ruthlessness and evil" as he bemoaned the violation on one of the holiest places in Islam.
The Al Aqsa Mosque, located in the Israeli-occupied East Jerusalem, remains under the control of local Muslim authorities and is administered by Jordan in accordance with agreements.
East Jerusalem was occupied and subsequently annexed by Israel following a war in 1967, a move considered illegal by the international community.
Palestinians, who want East Jerusalem to be the capital of a future Palestinian state, demand Israel returns to its pre-1967 borders if a peace deal is to be agreed.
However, the site of Al Aqsa Mosque also holds a symbolic value for the Israelis, who call it the Temple Mount after the Temple of Solomon, which was destroyed by the Babylonians over 2,500 years ago.
Ultra-Orthodox Jewish groups often visit the compound to mark special occasions in the Jewish calendar under the guard of Israeli police, but such visits are viewed as provocative by Palestinian locals.
The visits often result in violent clashes between Israeli police, who block access to the mosque for worshippers, and Palestinians who gather to protest.
Last week’s incident unfolded after Israeli police conducted a raid in order to empty the compound of Palestinians prior to the visit, claiming such action was necessary to prevent a riot.
Israeli attempts to storm the mosque with tear gas, stun grenades and rubber bullets led to dozens of Palestinians sustaining injuries.
The raid was condemned by a number of countries, including Turkey, which called it a violation of the freedom of worship.
Saudi Arabia’s King Salman also spoke to US President Barack Obama about the issue, urging him and Pope Francis both to take action to stop Israeli aggression.