Al-Aqsa: Clashes erupt inside Jerusalem mosque after Israeli forces enter
Israeli police clashed with Palestinians inside the al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem’s Old City early on Wednesday, just days after a Palestinian man was killed outside the holy site.
The Palestinian Red Crescent in Jerusalem said at least seven were injured during clashes outside the walls of the mosque and at least two of the injured were transferred to hospital, suffering from injuries sustained from rubber bullets and assault.
A video tweeted by the head of the Palestinian mission to the United Kingdom, Husam Zomlot, shows unrest and violence inside the mosque.
In a statement Israeli police said its forces entered the mosque after “several law-breaking youths and masked agitators brought into the mosque fireworks, sticks, and stones.”
“When the police entered, stones were thrown at them, and fireworks were fired from inside the mosque by a large group of agitators,” according to the statement. Israeli police also released video of its forces entering and fireworks exploding.
“These instigators fortified it hours after the Taraweeh prayer in order to disrupt public order and desecrate the mosque,” the statement said.
“In addition, they started chanting for incitement and violence inside the mosque and locked its doors from the inside with obstacles and fortifications at the entrances.”
The statement added that the “rioters” were detained and one Israeli police officer was wounded in the leg by stones.
Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh condemned the actions of the Israeli police in a statement released by his office on Wednesday. “What is happening in Jerusalem is a major crime against worshipers,” said Shtayyeh.
“Israel does not want to learn from history, that Al-Aqsa is for the Palestinians and for all Arabs and Muslims, and that storming it sparked a revolution against the occupation,” Shtayyeh added.
The mosque compound, frequently a flashpoint in tensions, is home to one of Islam’s most revered sites but also the holiest site in Judaism, known as the Temple Mount.
It has now reopened for dawn prayers, and some worshipers are being allowed to enter.
The clashes come days after a Palestinian man was shot and killed by Israeli police at the entrance of the mosque on Saturday. Palestinian and Israeli sources disputed the circumstances that led to the killing of 26-year-old Muhammad Al-Osaibi.
The incident came in the middle of Ramadan, which has passed largely peacefully in Jerusalem. The first two Fridays of the Muslim holy month have seen hundreds of thousands of worshipers offer prayers at al-Aqsa without incident. Jews are set to celebrate Passover on Wednesday evening.
The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) also said on Wednesday that nine rockets were fired from Gaza Strip toward Israel.
“Following the previous report regarding the sirens which sounded in Sderot, five rockets were fired from the Gaza Strip into Israeli territory,” said the IDF. “Four of them were intercepted by the aerial defense array.”
IDF also said four additional rockets launched from Gaza toward Israel but landed in open areas.
“Following the additional sirens that sounded in the surroundings of the Gaza Strip, four rockets were launched from the Gaza Strip that landed in open areas. No interceptors were launched according to protocol,” IDF added.
Last year was the deadliest for both Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and for Israelis in nearly two decades, CNN analysis of official statistics on both sides showed.
And this year has seen a violent beginning, too. At least 90 Palestinians have been killed, according to Palestinian Ministry of Health statistics. In addition to suspected militants being targeted by Israeli forces, the dead include Palestinians killing, wounding or attempting to kill Israeli civilians, people clashing with Israeli security and bystanders, CNN records show.
In the same period, at least 15 Israelis have been killed in attacks by Palestinians in Israel and the West Bank, CNN records show – 14 civilians and a police officer who was hit by friendly fire after being stabbed by a Palestinian teenager while inspecting bus passengers.