Palestinian women Temple Mount Jerusalem
Palestinian women protest outside the Dome of the Rock mosque after Jewish worshippers entered the al-Aqsa mosque compound in Jerusalem Ahmad Gharabli/AFP

A group of Muslim women have been chanting at Jews and chasing them when they try to visit a Jerusalem Old City's contested site known to Muslims as Al-Aqsa, or Noble Sanctuary, and to Jews as Temple Mount.

The compound, holy to both religious communities, has been the object of tensions between Jews and Muslims.

Why is the site holy to both Jews and Muslims?

The compound is Jews' holiest site as it contains the Foundation Stone, located at the heart of The Dome of the Rock shrine. According to Judaism, on this stone was first placed the Arc of the Covenant, thought to contain the Ten Commandments, which God had given to Moses on Mount Sinai.

The compound is also Muslims' third holiest site as it contains the Al-Aqsa mosque, which originally was a small prayer house built by the Caliph Umar. According to Islam, the prophet Muhammad instructed his followers to face Al-Aqsa during their prayers. Muslims also believe that during his "Night Journey", Muhammad went to Al-Aqsa before ascending to Heaven.

Witnesses told the New York Times the women, known to the local community as "Muslim garrison soldiers", often chant at Jewish visitors and chase them. Those who are barred from entering the site stand at the exit and shout at Jewish visitors.

During their protests at the presence of Jewish visitors, the women reportedly chant: "The community of Muhammad does not kneel!" and scream "Settlers!" in reference to Israeli settlements on occupied Palestine.

The women justified their action by saying it is their role to "protect" the site from religious Jews.

"Everybody must protect Al-Aqsa so the Jews don't take it," said one of the women. "They have their eyes on it."

Another woman said: "It's like God gave us a gift, a place to stand guard. You feel then how much value you have."

However, according to Rabbi Chaim Richman, international director of the Israel-based Temple Institute, which organises tours of the Temple Mount, the women's protest "is very unsettling to many people. It's basically incitement".

In order to avoid violence, non-Muslims have been barred from praying or engaging in other forms of worship at the site.

Jordan - which administers Jerusalem's holy cites as per a peace agreement signed by the Kingodm and Israel in 1994 - recalled its ambassador in November 2014 citing "violations" by Israeli security forces. There were clashes between Israeli police and Palestinians after the latter allegedly hurled stones and firecrackers before Al-Aqsa was open to visitors.