ISRAEL: Israeli Police on Sunday entered the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem’s Old City to secure the way for Jewish visitors to the flashpoint holy site, fuelling clashes that left 17 Palestinians wounded, according to Palestinian medical workers.
The unrest happened just two days after clashes with Palestinians at the same site. Violence in Jerusalem between Israeli security forces and Palestinian demonstrators a year ago escalated into an 11-day Gaza war.
The hilltop compound housing the mosque is the third-holiest site in Islam, while it is the holiest place for Jews, who refer to it as the Temple Mount. The competing claims to the site have sparked numerous rounds of violence.
This year the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, Christian holy week culminating in Easter Sunday and the weeklong Jewish Passover are all occurring at the same time, with tens of thousands of visitors flocking to the city after coronavirus restrictions have been mostly lifted.
Israeli police accused Palestinians of “defiling and desecrating” a holy site, while Palestinian officials accused Israel of trying to divide the sensitive holy site. “What happened in Al-Aqsa Mosque is a dangerous escalation, the repercussions of which are to be borne by the Israeli government alone,” said Nabil Abu Rdeneh, spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
Police said they entered the compound to facilitate the routine visit of Jews to the holy site.
They said Palestinians had stockpiled stones and set up barriers in anticipation of violence. The police said they were committed to ensuring freedom of worship for Jews and Muslims. Palestinians reported brief clashes with Israeli police just outside the mosque compound, while police said Palestinians had thrown stones at visiting tour buses outside the Old City, lightly wounding some passengers.
Police released a video showing a crowd of youths pelting a passing bus with stones just outside the Old City. Another video from the police, taken inside one of the buses, showed Jewish families sitting on the floor of the vehicle as it continued on its way.
The Palestinian Red Crescent medical service said 17 Palestinians were wounded, including five people who were hospitalised. Israeli police reported nine arrests. By midday, witnesses said police had moved out of the compound. Under longtime understandings, Jews are allowed to visit the Temple Mount but are barred from praying there. For decades, Jews avoided worship there for religious reasons.- THE INDIAN EXPRESS