Police clash with Palestinians re-entering Temple Mount compound

Police clash with Palestinians re-entering Temple Mount compound

Israeli authorities respond to stone-throwing rioters with tear gas and rubber bullets, as tensions in Jerusalem show no sign of easing

Police clash with Palestinians on Temple Mount. 

Source: Screenshot from Twitter
Police clash with Palestinians on Temple Mount. Source: Screenshot from Twitter

More violent clashes have erupted between Israeli security forces and Palestinians outside the Lion’s Gate in Jerusalem’s Old City, near a flashpoint holy site.

The Palestinian Red Crescent said at least eight people have been injured in a melee that broke out after nightfall on Thursday.

Meanwhile a Palestinian hospital official said a Palestinian man injured in clashes with Israeli troops earlier this week has died of his injuries.

Dr Ahmad Betawi, head of a West Bank hospital, said 26-year-old Mohammed Kanan sustained a head injury when he was struck on Monday by a live bullet in an altercation outside Jerusalem.

At least four other Palestinians have died in the past week in violent clashes with Israeli security forces amid protests over the Jerusalem site that is sacred to both Jews and Muslims.

Earlier, it appeared that calm was restored and President Donald Trump’s Middle East envoy Jason Greenblatt said the United States “welcomes the efforts undertaken to de-escalate tensions in Jerusalem today”.

Mr Greenblatt said the calm would “create the best opportunity to return to dialogue and the pursuit of peace”.

Palestinians had celebrated on Thursday as Israel rolled back security measures and thousands of worshippers heeded a call by Muslim authorities to assemble for prayers at the Al-Aqsa Mosque for the first time in 11 days.

But as crowds pushed at one of the gates to the compound in the Old City, police fired tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse them, with dozens reported wounded.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered police reinforcements in Jerusalem following the latest unrest, and police were weighing limiting entry of younger men in anticipation of mass protests for Friday prayers – the highlight of the Muslim religious week.

Israeli troops in the West Bank were put on high alert and prepared for more violence on Friday, a military official said.

Tensions have been running high at the site sacred to both Muslims and Jews since three Israeli Arab gunmen killed two police officers on July 14, prompting Israel to install metal detectors and other security devices.

Israel said the measures were needed to prevent more attacks. Palestinians claimedIsrael was trying to expand its control over the site, which Israel denied.

The security measures outraged Muslims and triggered protests, and low-level clashes have continued in and around Jerusalem since then, highlighting the deep distrust between Israel and the Palestinians over the holy site.

In protest, Palestinians have prayed in Jerusalem’s streets outside the shrine since the July 14 attack.

Israel removed the devices on Thursday and the crisis appeared to be easing as Muslim leaders told the faithful to return to pray at the mosque.

Droves of Palestinians entered for afternoon prayers. A handful scaled the roof of the mosque and planted Palestinian flags above the entrance. Police later removed them.

Just before worship began, police shot tear gas and rubber bullets at the crowd.

The Red Crescent said tensions rose as Israeli troops closed one of the gates to the compound as large numbers of worshippers tried to enter, and that 96 people were wounded in the melee.

Police said officers were struck by stones and responded with riot dispersal methods, and a spokesman said at least two officers were wounded.

Rival Palestinian factions Fatah and Hamas both issued calls earlier this week for mass protests on Friday.

The fate of the shrine is an emotional issue at the heart of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Even the smallest perceived change to delicate arrangements pertaining to the site sparks tensions.

Jews revere the hilltop compound as the Temple Mount, site of the two Jewish biblical temples.

It is the holiest site in Judaism and the nearby Western Wall, a remnant of one of the temples, is the holiest place where Jews can pray.

The walled compound is home to the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock.

It is Islam’s third-holiest site after Mecca and Medina in Saudi Arabia. Muslims believe the site marks the spot where the Prophet Muhammad ascended to heaven.

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