Clashes Erupt at Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem
Dozens reportedly injured in violent scuffle between police and Palestinian worshipers
A day after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told police chiefs and the Shin Bet security service to crack down on Palestinian protesters in Jerusalem, clashes were reported outside that city's Al-Aqsa Mosque compound.
Dozens were said to be injured as Palestinian worshipers on Wednesday morning were stopped from entering a mosque by Israeli police, who then escorted a right-wing Jewish group inside to observe the holiday of Sukkot.
According to the Ma’an news agency, security guards witnessed officers "forcibly" removing worshipers, "attacking some of them with clubs," which led to a violent scuffle:
As worshipers threw stones, soldiers fired tear gas, stun grenades, and rubber bullets, injuring dozens of Palestinians, Al-Aqsa Mosque director Sheikh Omar al-Kiswani said.
Some of the stun grenades were fired into the Al-Aqsa Mosque itself, causing a fire to break out, and fire fighters were not immediately allowed access to the area, al-Kiswani added.
Luba Samri, an Israeli police spokeswoman, told Al Jazeera that police "chased the demonstrators towards the mosque, where they barricaded themselves inside and continued hurling objects… There was no immediate information on whether anyone was hurt among the Palestinian protesters."
Al-Asqa mosque is a contentious area, as it is considered the holiest site in Judaism and the third-holiest in Islam. Its status often finds the mosque as the backdrop for demonstrations in the occupied territory.
Tensions have been high in Jerusalem since Israel's 50-day-long offensive against Gaza, which saw more than 2,000 Palestinian and 72 Israeli deaths, came to an uneasy ceasefire in late August.