Israeli security forces entered the compound of the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem before dawn on Friday as thousands of Palestinians gathered for prayer during the holy month of Ramadan, sparking clashes in which at least 117 Palestinians were injured, according to medical officials.
Israel said its forces stepped in to remove rocks and stones collected in anticipation of violence. The holy site, sacred to Jews and Muslims alike, has often been the epicenter of Israeli-Palestinian unrest, and tensions have already been heightened amid a recent spate of violence. Clashes at the site over the past year helped spark an 11-day war with Hamas militants in Gaza.
The clashes come at a particularly sensitive time. Ramadan coincides this year with Passover, an important week-long Jewish holiday that begins at sunset on Friday, and with the Christian Holy Week, which culminates on Easter Sunday. The holidays are expected to bring tens of thousands of believers to Jerusalem’s Old City, home to important sites sacred to all three religions.
Videos circulating online showed Palestinians hurling rocks and firecrackers and police officers firing tear gas and stun grenades at the sprawling esplanade surrounding the mosque. Others showed worshipers barricading themselves inside the mosque amid clouds of tear gas.
The Palestinian Red Crescent Ambulance Service said it treated 117 people, many of whom were injured by rubber-tipped bullets or stun grenades, or beaten with batons. The foundation said one of the guards at the scene was shot in the eye with a rubber bullet.
Israel Police said three officers were injured by “massive stone throwing” and two were evacuated from the scene for treatment.
Israel’s Foreign Ministry said dozens of masked men carrying Palestinian and Hamas flags marched to the site early Friday and collected rocks.
“Police were forced to enter the premises to disperse the crowd and remove the stones and rocks to prevent further violence,” she tweeted.
Police said they waited until prayers were over and the crowd began to disperse. A statement said the crowd had started hurling rocks toward the Western Wall, a nearby Jewish holy site, forcing them into action. They said they did not enter the mosque themselves.
The Palestinians view any major police operation in Al-Aqsa as a major provocation.
Israel’s National Security Minister Omer Barlev, who oversees the police, said Israel had “no interest” in violence at the holy site but police were forced to confront “violent elements” who confronted them with stones and metal bars.
https://nypost.com/2022/04/15/israeli-security-forces-enter-al-aqsa-mosque-in-jerusalem-cause-violent-clash/ Israeli security forces enter Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa Mosque, causing a violent clash