JERUSALEM: At least 152 Palestinians were injured in clashes with Israeli riot police inside Al Aqsa mosque compound on Friday, extending a recent resurgence 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 sparking a slide back 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 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 Ramazan 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.
The Palestinian foreign ministry, referring to the Al Aqsa violence, said it “holds Israel fully and directly responsible for this crime and its consequences”.
Immediate intervention by the international community is needed to stop Israeli aggression against Al Aqsa mosque and prevent things from going out of control, said Nabil Abu Rudeineh, spokesperson for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas who governs self-ruled areas of the Israeli-occupied West Bank.
Hamas, the Palestinian Islamist group that controls the Gaza Strip, said Israel “bears responsibility for the consequences”.