Paramilitary forces from Iran’s powerful Revolutionary Guard have held a war game simulating the capture of Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa Mosque from Israeli control, state media reported Saturday.
Forces stormed and “liberated” a replica of the mosque in the exercise. Thousands of members of the Basij, the paramilitary unit of the Guard, participated in Friday’s exercise outside the holy city of Qom in central Iran.
The symbolic operations were backed up by Guard helicopters, drones and Tucano planes that bombed hypothetical enemy positions before ground troops captured the replica of the mosque set up at the top of a mountain.
In a common mistake, the Guard set up a replica of the gold-topped Dome of the Rock mosque instead of the nearby grey-domed Al-Aqsa mosque. Official photos showed one of the troops going to the top of the dome and waving an Iranian flag and a red flag, a symbol of martyrdom.
The hilltop compound, which is holy to Jews and Muslims, has been at the heart of weeks of unrest between Israel and the Palestinians. Muslims call the site the Noble Sanctuary, and the mosque is Islam’s third holiest site after Mecca and Medina in Saudi Arabia. Jews revere the spot as the Temple Mount — home to the biblical Temples and the holiest site in Judaism.