JERUSALEM: At least 31 Palestinians were injured in clashes with Israeli police at the Al-Aqsa mosque compound in Jerusalem on Friday (Apr 22), Palestinian medics said, the latest outbreak in a recent upsurge of violence at a site revered by Muslims and Jews alike.
According to the Palestinian Red Crescent ambulance service, 14 Palestinians were taken to the hospital, two with serious injuries.
Israeli police said its forces intervened when hundreds of people began hurling rocks and fireworks and drew close to the Western Wall, where Jewish worship was under way.
Reuters witnesses said police entered the compound after the morning prayers and fired rubber bullets and stun grenades at a crowd of about 200 Palestinians, some of whom were throwing rocks. Police also fired rubber bullets from a close range at a group of journalists documenting the clashes, the witnesses said.
Violence at the compound, known to Jews as the Temple Mount and to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary, has surged over the past week, raising concerns about a slide back into the wider Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Since March, Israeli forces have killed at least 29 Palestinians in West Bank raids, according to the Palestinian health ministry, and a series of deadly Arab street attacks have killed 14 people in Israel, Israeli police and medics said.
Tensions this year have been heightened in part by the Muslim holy month of Ramadan coinciding with the Jewish celebration of Passover, which brings more Muslim and Jewish visitors to the compound.
Palestinians accuse Israel of not doing enough to enforce a long-standing ban on Jewish worship at the third holiest site in Islam and see such visits as a provocation. Israel rejects this accusation.
As in previous years, Israel is halting Jewish visits during the final days of Ramadan, starting Friday, an Israeli official said. Traditionally, Muslim attendance at the compound increases during the final days of the fasting month.
Al-Aqsa compound sits atop the Old City plateau of East Jerusalem, which Israel captured in a 1967 war and annexed in a move that has not won international recognition.
Palestinians want East Jerusalem to be the capital of a state they seek to establish in the occupied West Bank and Gaza.