After Palestinian youngsters flung stones at a gate where Israeli police were stationed, Israeli police in full riot gear assaulted a sensitive Jerusalem holy site vital to Jews and Muslims on Friday.
The increased violence at the shrine, which is holy to both Jews and Muslims, occurred despite Israel temporarily suspending Jewish visits, which Palestinians regard as provocative. Before the skirmishes stopped hours later, medics estimated that over two dozen Palestinians were injured.
Over the previous week, Palestinians and Israeli police have battled frequently at the site, escalating tensions following a series of fatal assaults within Israel and arrest operations in the occupied West Bank. The Gaza Strip, which is controlled by the Islamic terrorist group Hamas, has fired three rockets into Israel.
The series of occurrences has sparked worries of a repetition of last year’s riots and bloodshed in Jerusalem, which helped to spark an 11-day conflict between Israel and Hamas, as well as communal unrest in Israel’s mixed communities.
According to two Palestinian witnesses who spoke on the condition of anonymity due to security concerns, Palestinian teenagers threw stones at police at a gate leading into the property. The cops stormed the property in full riot gear, shooting rubber bullets and stun grenades.
Before morning, Palestinians, some of whom were waving Hamas flags, began collecting stones and constructing makeshift barricades, according to Israeli police. After the rock-throwing began, the police waited until early morning prayers were over before entering the property, according to the authorities.
As scores of young masked men flung stones and pyrotechnics at the police, several elder Palestinians encouraged the adolescents to cease hurling rocks, but they were disregarded. Near the entrance where the fighting began, a tree caught fire. It was started, said to police, by Palestinians throwing fireworks.
After another group of dozens of Palestinians stated they intended to clear the area before of the big weekly prayers at midday, which are typically attended by tens of thousands of Muslim worshippers, the violence calmed later in the morning. The stone-throwing ceased when the cops retired to the gate.
At least 31 Palestinians were injured, according to the Palestinian Red Crescent medical organization, with 14 of them being transferred to hospitals. According to the authorities, a rock struck a policewoman in the face, and she was transported to the hospital for treatment.
The Al-Aqsa Mosque, located in Jerusalem’s Old City, is Islam’s third holiest place. For Jews, the broad esplanade on which it is situated is the holiest place, referred to as the Temple Mount since it was formerly home to two Jewish temples. It is the epicenter of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and incidents there have frequently sparked bloodshed elsewhere.
Palestinians and Jordan, the monument’s custodian, accuse Israel of breaking long-standing agreements by allowing a rising number of Jews to visit the site while being escorted by police.
In recent years, a long-standing restriction against Jews worshiping at the site has loosened, increasing Palestinian worries that Israel intends to take control or split the site.
Israel maintains its commitment to the status quo, blaming the bloodshed on Hamas incitement. It claims that its security officers are removing rock-throwers to guarantee that Jews and Muslims have freedom of worship.
Jewish organizations’ visits were suspended beginning Friday for the remaining ten days of Ramadan, as they have been in the past.
After the easing of most coronavirus restrictions, tens of thousands of people from all three faiths flocked to the Old City for Ramadan, which coincided with the week-long Jewish Passover and significant Christian celebrations.
East Jerusalem, along with the West Bank and Gaza, was taken by Israel in the 1967 Mideast conflict. Israel annexed east Jerusalem in an internationalally unrecognized move and now claims the entire city to be its capital. Palestinians want to establish an independent state in all three regions, with east Jerusalem as its capital.