Iranian special forces on parade
Iranian special forces on parade in Tehran Getty Images

Iran's elite Revolutionary Guard staged seizing Jerusalem's Al-Aqsa mosque from Israel during recent war games. The site is regarded as holy in both Islam and Judaism and has been the source of fierce disputes resulting in violent clashes in recent weeks.

Iranian state media reported that thousands of troops from the paramilitary Basij unit of the guards stormed and "liberated" a replica of the mosque on Friday, 20 November, near the holy city of Qom in central Iran.

The war game was backed by helicopters, drones, and Tucano planes. However the gold-domed replica the troops seized seemed to represent the Dome of the Rock mosque, not the nearby gray-domed Al Aqsa as proclaimed.

A Basij commander told Fars news agency the drills had been organised "to exercise preparedness to fight against possible threats in the region".

Pictures released by Iranian state media show soldiers scaling the dome and raising the Iranian flag, and a red flag symbolising the blood of martyrs.

The Jerusalem site is one of the holiest in Islam and Judaism. Muslims regard Al-Aqsa mosque as the holiest site after Mecca and Medina, while Jews regard the Temple Mount as the site of the ancient temples of their faith.

Weeks of violent unrest were unleashed across the West Bank and Gaza after claims that Israel was planning to restrict Muslim access to the compound. Israel denied the claims.