Israeli police, Palestinians clash at Al-Aqsa mosque

In the midst of chaos: A Palestinian man prays as Israeli police gather during clashes near the Al-Aqsa Mosque.   | Photo Credit: Reuters

More than 160 people were wounded when Israeli riot police clashed with Palestinians at Jerusalem’s flashpoint Al-Aqsa mosque compound late on Friday, capping a week of violence in the Holy City and the occupied West Bank.

Stones, bottles and fireworks were hurled at officers who fired rubber bullets and stun grenades at the crowds at Islam’s third-holiest site, also revered by Jews as the location of two biblical-era temples.

At least 163 Palestinians and six Israeli officers were reported wounded at Al-Aqsa and elsewhere in east Jerusalem, as the Palestinian Red Crescent said it had opened a field hospital because emergency rooms were full.

Police said officers had restored order following the “rioting of thousands of worshippers” after evening prayers.

Tensions in Jerusalem have soared in recent weeks as Palestinians have protested against Israel’s restrictions on access to parts of the Old City during the Muslim holy month of Ramzan, and after authorities ordered several Palestinian families to leave their homes to make way for Israeli settlers.

The United Nations had warned the forced evictions could amount to “war crimes”.

The U.S. called for “de-escalation”, later adding that the violence was “especially disturbing now, coming as it does on the last days of Ramzan”.

Watch | Israel-Palestine conflict: What is happening in Jerusalem?

Friday’s unrest came on Al-Quds Day, an annual day of pro-Palestinian rallies held by Israel’s arch-enemy Iran, which also saw many thousands march in Muslim-majority countries across the region and as far as Pakistan.

Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas said he held the Israeli government “responsible” for the unrest and voiced “full support for our heroes in Aqsa”.

International observers urged calm, with UN envoy Tor Vennesland tweeting his concern, and urging all parties to “respect the status quo of holy sites in Jerusalem’s Old City in the interest of peace & stability”.

The clashes erupted as Muslims packed the Al-Aqsa compound to pray on the last Friday of Ramzan.

In 2000, the compound was where the second Palestinian intifada broke out after a visit there by former opposition and right-wing Israeli leader Ariel Sharon, seen as a painful provocation by Palestinians.

Earlier on Friday, Israeli security forces killed two Palestinians and wounded a third after the trio opened fire on the Salem base in the occupied West Bank, police said, with the incident following days of bloody clashes and killings.

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Printable version | Jun 18, 2021 8:07:43 AM |

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