Violent clashes broke out Friday between Palestinians and Israeli police at Al-Aqsa Mosque, in what has become a weekly occurrence ahead of midday prayers for the entire month of Ramadan.
After the clashes, 160,000 worshippers attended Friday's prayers, the highest number of attendees since the beginning of Ramadan, according to The Waqf.
Hundreds of young Palestinians fired fireworks and threw rocks within the compound, with some also hurling rocks towards the Western Wall and Mughrabi Bridge. One fell in the Western Wall plaza, though no one was reported injured.
In response, police entered the Temple Mount compound for the first time in a week and used riot control methods, which Palestinians said included tear gas and foam-tipped bullets. According to the Red Crescent,42 people were wounded and transported to the hospital.
The rioters reportedly barricaded themselves in the mosque, leading police to try to break down the doors. Police said they arrested two people, and that the riots simmered down ahead of the midday prayers.
Riots and violent clashes between young Palestinian men and police have broken out on all the past Fridays during Ramadan this year, but the demonstrations held early in the morning on these days, and which ended before the midday prayers, were quiet.
Ahead of the last Friday of the holy month of Ramadan Israeli police deployed thousands of officers around the Temple Mount in anticipation of tens of thousands of Muslim worshipers coming to participate in prayers in line with high attendance by Palestinians seen in recent days.
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Three Palestinians were arrested on suspicion of throwing stones and assault in Jerusalem on Thursday, the Jerusalem police bureau reported. Two Palestinian minors from East Jerusalem, a 12- and 13-year-old, were arrested for throwing stones from the Temple Mount, while a third Palestinian from the West Ban was arrested after following and assaulting a passerby.
Last week, a 21-year-old resident of East Jerusalem, Walid al-Sharif, was hit in the head by a foam-tipped bullet during confrontations with security forces, and is still hospitalized in critical condition. His family said he has suffered extensive brain injuries and is unconscious. Many others were also lightly injured by foam-tipper bullets used for riot dispersal.
The Temple Mount has been relatively quiet for the past week – and so has the capital in general. On Thursday, police dispersed tear gas grenades from a drone, as it did last Friday.
Jews have been banned from entering the Temple Mount for the last week, and will not be allowed entry during the last 10 days of Ramadan as has been done for the past few years.
Late Wednesday night and early Thursday morning, some 200,000 people participated in mass prayers marking the Laylat al-Qadr on the Temple Mount. In spite of tensions in Jerusalem in recent weeks, the largest religious event in the capital ended in relative quiet. A few groups of young Palestinians shouted nationalist slogans and waved Hamas flags, which were removed by older worshipers, and the few small pockets of rioting were quickly dispersed by police. They arrested one suspect, but did not enter the Temple Mount.
Laylat al-Qadr is held every year just before the end of the Ramadan month of fasting, marking the night Mohammed received the Quran. Tens of thousands of worshipers came from East Jerusalem and the West Bank. The IDF allowed women of all ages and men over 40 to enter from the West Bank to attend the prayers. Most left during the night, but a few thousand remained on the Temple Mount for the morning prayers.
The IDF will call up six reserve battalions in the next few weeks to replace the regular troops who patrolled near the separation barrier with the West Bank in the last month. The latest wave of Palestinian attacks over the past month, in which 14 Israelis were killed in four attacks in city centers within two weeks, led the IDF to deploy large numbers of troops in the West Bank, in part to prevent Palestinians from entering Israel illegally, but the army now wants to return them to their regular duties.