At least 152 Palestinians were injured in clashes with Israeli riot police inside Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa mosque compound on Friday, the latest outbreak in a recent upsurge of violence that has raised fears of a slide back to wider conflict.
Most of the Palestinian injuries were incurred by rubber bullets, stun grenades and beatings with police batons, the Palestine Red Crescent said, at the most sensitive site in the generations-old Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Israeli security forces have been on high alert after a series of deadly Arab street attacks throughout the country over the past two weeks. Confrontations at the Al-Aqsa compound in Jerusalem’s walled Old City pose the risk of a relapse into a broader conflagration like last year’s Gaza war.
The Al-Aqsa compound sits atop the Old City plateau of East Jerusalem, which was captured by Israel in the 1967 Middle East war and is known to Muslims as al-Haram al-Sharif, or The Noble Sanctuary, and to Jews as the Temple Mount.
In a statement, Israeli police said hundreds of Palestinians hurled firecrackers and stones at their forces and toward the nearby Jewish prayer area of the Western Wall in the Old City after Ramadan morning prayers.
It said police then entered the Al-Aqsa compound to “disperse and push back [the crowd and] enable the rest of the worshippers to leave the place safely,” adding that three officers were injured in the clashes.
Police detained hundreds of Palestinians, a spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said in a tweet.
“We are working to restore calm, on the Temple Mount and across Israel. Alongside that, we are preparing for any scenario and the security forces are ready for any task,” Bennett said.
Estamos trabalhando para acalmar as coisas no Monte do Templo e em todo Israel. Ao mesmo tempo, estamos preparados para qualquer cenário", diz o primeiro-ministro israelense Naftali Bennet. pic.twitter.com/XwwQuQjEl9
— 🇮🇱Remaining🇮🇱 (@Remainingk1) April 15, 2022
The Palestinian Foreign Ministry, referring to the violence in the holy compound, said it “holds Israel fully and directly responsible for this crime and its consequences”.
Since last month, Israeli forces have killed 29 Palestinians as in the course of carrying out raids in the West Bank after Palestinian assailants killed 14 Israelis in a string of attacks in Israeli cities.
Al-Aqsa is the third holiest site in Islam and also revered by Jews as the location of two ancient temples.
Israel claims all of Jerusalem as its eternal capital. Palestinians seek to make East Jerusalem, including its Muslim, Christian and Jewish holy sites, the capital of a future state.
Copyright 2022 Thomson/Reuters