Israeli police prevent Muslim worshipers from entering holy places

JERUSALEM – Israeli police prevented Muslims from entering the grounds of the Aqsa Mosque early Sunday morning and brief clashes broke out in nearby side streets, two days after the violence. force erupted in the holy place.

Police, seeking to prevent contact between Muslims and Jews who had entered the compound, locked the Muslims who had been inside it into small sections of the site, attacking several people. with a baton. They provided Jewish worshipers with a police escort as they walked around the perimeter of the site, known to the Jews as Temple Mount, which was the site of an ancient temple considered the holiest place in Judaism.

Earlier, Palestinians had gathered near the entrance used by non-Muslims to enter the site, blocking part of a route commonly used by Jews to pray discreetly near the site of the ancient temple. of the Jews.

Clashes then broke out in side streets around the mosque grounds, as police used batons and sonic grenades to force back Muslims trying to enter. Palestinians shouted: “With our souls, with our blood, we die for Al Aqsa.”

At least 17 people were injured, five of them hospitalized, according to Palestinian Red Crescent medical staff at the scene. At least five people were hit by rubber bullets, medics said.

Sheikh Omar al-Kiswani, a senior cleric at the mosque, said several Palestinians were also detained by police. Police also disabled loudspeakers at the mosque, after Palestinians tried to use the sound system to call people to the site, Sheikh Omar added.

Other Palestinians locked themselves in the largest mosque in the compound, as police patrolled outside.

Tensions regularly run high at Jerusalem’s Old City complex, sacred to both Islam and Judaism. But they are particularly stressed at the moment because of the rare overlap between Ramadan and Passover, which has brought more Muslims and Jews to the site than usual.

Muslims consider attempts by some Jewish activists to pray flexibly at the site as a provocation because they violate long-standing Israeli policy that allows Jews to visit but not pray. . They also fear that Jewish prayer there will fuel campaigns by small extremist groups to build a new Jewish temple at the site.

Many Muslims have also expressed anger at recent attempts by Jewish extremists to target a goat house for the Passover sacrifice. Last week, police said they had arrested several activists who were planning such sacrifices.

While some rabbis support Jews to pray on the Temple Mount, one of Israel’s main rabbis, David Lau, released a statement last week saying it was forbidden for Jews to set foot up there, a position that many rabbis have held since 1967, when Israel. captured the site from Jordan. Many Jews believe that by entering the site, they risk entering some of the holiest areas of the ancient Jewish temple.

On Friday, Israeli riot police, firing rubber bullets and stun grenades, stormed the main mosque in the compound to arrest hundreds of Palestinians, many of whom threw stones at them. More than 150 people were injured.

Recent clashes have followed a wave Palestinian attacks on Israelis and Israel’s deadly raids in the occupied West Bank.

Similar clashes at mosques last year contributed to the outbreak of an 11-day war between Israel and militants in Gaza led by Hamas, the Islamist movement that controls the strip.

This year, however, both Israel and Hamas have signaled that they do not want to escalate. Khaled Meshaal, a senior Hamas official, said on Saturday that both sides had informed Qatari officials that they did not want a new conflict.

But Muslim Jihad, another militant group in Gaza, said on Sunday that recent tensions at the mosque would lead to an “all-out confrontation”.

Myra Noveck contributed reporting from Jerusalem and Iyad Abu Heweila from Gaza City.

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