Middle East

Israeli police enter Al-Aqsa to break up protest

Muslim worshippers flee as Israeli policemen fire tear gas during clashes outside the Al-Aqsa Mosque.

OCCUPIED JERUSALEM: Israeli police hurled stun grenades and fired tear gas to disperse dozens of protesters who threw stones outside the Al-Aqsa Mosque, Islam’s third-holiest site, after Friday prayers.

“Several hundred worshippers threw stones at police who were stationed at the Mughrabi Gate, forcing them to go onto the plaza and push them toward the middle,” Israeli police spokeswoman Luba Samri said.

An AFP correspondent said the forces had used sound bombs to disperse the crowds.

Two people suffered minor injures, while one person was arrested for attempting to stab a policeman as he was being taken into custody, another Israeli spokesman added.

The unrest broke out after days of tension at the compound.

Nine people were arrested Thursday. Five were Arab Israelis, who were accused of threatening Jewish and Christian visitors to the site, and four Israeli Jews, three of them right-wing activists who tried to force their way onto the plaza.

Another three Arabs and two Jews were arrested Tuesday for disturbing the peace and attacking police.

Deadly riots erupted at the same site after a visit by then Israeli opposition leader Ariel Sharon, at the outset of a Palestinian uprising in 2000.

Jordan criticized Israel Friday for entering the mosque, claiming that the Jewish state’s policies seek to “ignite religious violence” in the region.

“Jordan condemned the raid on the mosque compound as well as attacking unarmed worshippers,” Information Minister and government spokesman Samih Maayatah said in a statement carried by state-run Petra news agency.

“Israel’s policies against Islamic and Christian holy sites in Jerusalem seek to ignite religious violence in the region,” Maayatah added, calling for the international community “stop such violations.”

The compound where Al-Aqsa stands houses the golden Dome of the Rock that marks the spot from which the Prophet Mohammad made his night journey to heaven.

The compound is also venerated by Jews as the site where King Herod’s temple stood before it was destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD.

It is one of the most sensitive sites in Jerusalem, and clashes frequently break out between Palestinians and Israeli security forces there.

Israel occupied East Jerusalem in a 1967 war – including the walled old city where the holy sites are located – and annexed it as part of its capital in a move never recognized internationally.

Palestinians want that part of the city as capital of a state they seek in Gaza and the occupied West Bank.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on October 06, 2012, on page 12.




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