Israel Police used a drone to fire tear gas grenades at the Temple Mount on Friday to quell rioting following afternoon prayers which were attended by thousands of Palestinian worshipers.
According to the Palestinian Red Crescent, 57 Palestinians were wounded and treated at the scene, 26 of which were suffering from gas inhalation. Fourteen Palestinians were evacuated to hospitals — 12 in moderate condition and two in serious condition.
Another Palestinian rioter was later severely wounded by a sponge-tipped bullet and taken to Jerusalem's Hadassah University Hospital, Ein Karem. Police say he sustained a head injury during the skirmishes.
Police sources criticized the use of tear gas grenades near large crowds. According to one of the sources, using a drone to fire tear gas grenades "results in many uninvolved casualties, including women and children. It's a mistake to use this at Temple Mount when hundreds of people are present."
The sources added that it would have been preferable to allow police forces to enter the Temple Mount plaza to disperse rioters rather than using tear gas grenades.
However, the police argued that some 20,000 people were at the Temple Mount when the grenades were used and that allowing in forces could have resulted in "an escalation of the situation." The police added that the grenades were fired after the crowds tried to approach a checkpoint and encourage incitement.
Earlier on Friday, police and Palestinian worshipers clashed on the Temple Mount following morning prayers, as has been the case for the past few weeks.
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Dozens were injured and two were in serious condition, according to the Palestinian Red Crescent. Police used rubber-tipped bullets and other riot control methods as rioters, some of whom were identified as residents of the Israeli-Arab city of Umm al-Fahm, threw stones and fired fireworks. Some of the worshipers tried to prevent clashes with the forces to preserve peaceful prayers.
The Temple Mount, located in Jerusalem's Old City, is the holiest site for Jews and the third-holiest sit in Islam. It has long been a flash point for Israeli-Palestinian violence.
Israel's security establishment points out opposing trends of both Palestinian national elements and Islamic elements on the issue of clashes at the Temple Mount.
Defense officials said that while both Hamas and the northern faction of Israel's Islamic Movement are trying to stir up tensions during Ramadan, the Waqf — the Muslim religious trust that administers the Temple Mount compound — attempted to prevent the worshipers from clashing with the police.
"Hamas is trying to encourage the riots on the Mount," one security source said, adding that there is "no excuse" for such incidents.
According to the source, the police were not on the Temple Mount until clashes erupted, and they have closed the site to non-Muslim worshipers for the duration of Ramadan in an effort to reduce tensions.