Palestinians, Israel Police Clash at Temple Mount

Two Palestinians arrested and five police officers lightly injured in third day of violence at flashpoint site in East Jerusalem.

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Palestinians shout in front of Israeli security forces who block a road leading to the Al-Aqsa mosque compound in Jerusalem's Old City on September 13, 2015.
Palestinians shout in front of Israeli security forces who block a road leading to the Al-Aqsa mosque compound in Jerusalem's Old City on September 13, 2015.Credit: AFP

Palestinians and Israel Police clashed Tuesday morning at Jerusalem's Temple Mount compound in the third day of consecutive violence at the flashpoint site, with Arab youths reportedly attempting to use violence to block access to the complex.

The incident came as Israel marked the Jewish new year and a day after an Israeli man died in an incident that could be the result of stone throwing.

Police spokeswoman Luba Samri said police entered the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound early Tuesday morning to disperse a group of protesters who were throwing rocks and firecrackers. She said the crowd was dispersed and added that two Palestinians were arrested and five police officers were lightly injured.

Police use stun grenades against Palestinian demonstrators in a street of the Muslim quarter in Jerusalem's Old City after scuffles with Israeli riot police on September 14, 2015.Credit: AFP

The Palestinian Red Crescent said its medics treated dozens of Palestinians who were injured. Police also prevented Muslims from entering the area for prayers, Palestinian officials in charge of the mosque area said.

According to the police, the Palestinian youths had barricaded themselves within the mosque overnight with the intent of locking horns with security forces, stocking up on stones and bricks, and using ropes and bookcases to block its entrance and prevent the police from closing the mosque doors to permit Jewish and non-Muslim visitors into the site.

According to the police, as the site opened Tuesday morning, the Palestinians began throwing stones at the Mughrabi-Bridge, the entrance for non-Muslim visitors, prompting a rare police raid, much like the one that took place on Sunday on the eve of Rosh Hashanah.

According to the police, a firebomb thrown from within the mosque at police ignited planks of wood stockpiled by the protesters. Mosque officials later extinguished the fire. Police released photos showing piles of charred rubble outside the mosque.

Police managed to remove the makeshift blockades set up at the mosque and close its doors, allowing the site to be opened to visitors.

The compound, known to Jews as the Temple Mount and as the Noble Sanctuary to Muslims, was captured by Israel from Jordan in 1967, and Jewish worshippers have been allowed to visit — but not pray — there. Muslim authorities view the presence of Jewish worshippers and Israeli police as a provocation and accuse Jewish extremists of plotting to take over the site.

In wake of Monday's violence, Jordan's King Abdullah II, the site's custodian, issued a rare warning to Israel, saying the kingdom was "very concerned and angered with the recent escalation's in Jerusalem, specifically in Al-Aqsa Mosque" in Jerusalem. Jordan, which has a peace treaty with Israel, administers Muslim religious affairs at the site.

Erdogan told UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in a phone call late Monday that Israeli police raiding the compound of the al-Aqsa Mosque was "unacceptable" and was causing "serious indignation" among Muslims, a presidency source told the state-run Anadolu news agency.

The U.S. State Department on Monday voiced concern about violence at the holy site. "The United States is deeply concerned by the increase in violence and escalating tensions surrounding the (al-)Haram al-Sharif/Temple Mount," said State Department spokesman John Kirby. "We strongly condemn all acts of violence. It is absolutely critical that all sides exercise restraint."

On Sunday, police clashed with Palestinians who barricaded themselves inside the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem's Old City and threw rocks and firecrackers.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Office announced on Monday evening that he would fast-track legislation to set a minimum sentence for stone and firebomb throwing after an Israeli died and several people were injured after attacks by rock-throwing Palestinians.

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