Clashes Erupt at Aqsa after Israeli Police Restrict Access

Israeli soldiers in front of Dome of the Rock mosque. (Photo: via Aljazeera/file)

Israeli police clashed with Palestinian worshipers at the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound on Sunday after they imposed strict restrictions on access to the holy site, later detaining five Palestinians leaving the compound.

Israeli police denied access to all Palestinian woman and men under the age of 30, between 7 and 11 a.m. on Sunday, the Palestinian Ministry of Endowments in Jerusalem said.

Police also shut down the Lion’s, King Faisal, Ghawanma, Iron, and the Cotton Merchant’s gates in the Old City and set up barricades to search and inspect Palestinian visitors at all gates that remained open, the ministry said.

Around 30 right-wing Jews then entered the mosque compound under armed police escort, the ministry said.

They alleged that right-wing Jewish organizations had called for a “return to the Temple Mount,” urging participants to wear their Israeli army uniforms as they stormed the holy site.

Clashes broke out when Israeli police reportedly fired stun grenades and rubber-coated bullets at Palestinian worshipers while the right-wingers toured the compound.

Israeli police also reportedly attacked worshipers protesting outside the Chain gate after they were denied entry.

Israeli police told AFP that “masked” Palestinian youths threw stones at police forces in the ensuing clashes.

Palestinian protesters also held photographs of the 18-month-old infant killed in Friday’s arson attack carried out by Israeli settlers in the occupied West Bank.

Israeli forces later detained Obada Najib, Mahmoud Najib, Muhammed Najib, Muhammed abu-Sneina, and abdul-Karim al-Haddad as they were exiting the compound, the director of the Palestinian Prisoner’s Society in Jerusalem Nasser Qaws said.

The Old City has been the site of increased tensions in recent weeks, with right-wing Israelis making repeated calls for Jews to raid the Al-Aqsa Moque compound.

Large numbers of right-wing Israelis entered the compound under the protection of armed forces several times last week, causing the UN to issue a warning against “religious provocations” at the site.

On Friday, hundreds of Palestinians performed prayers in the streets of Jerusalem and at the Old City’s gates as Israeli authorities prevented men under the age of 50 from entering the mosque.

Following Israel’s occupation of East Jerusalem in 1967, Israel has maintained an agreement with the Islamic Endowment that controls the compound not to allow non-Muslim prayer in the area.

The compound, which sits just above the Western Wall plaza, houses both the Dome of the Rock and Al-Aqsa Mosque and is the third holiest site in Islam.

It is also venerated as Judaism’s most holy place as it sits where Jews believe the First and Second Temples once stood. The Second Temple was destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD.

(Ma’an and agencies – www.maannews.com)

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