Clashes erupt at Jerusalem holy site, 117 Palestinians hurt
Medics say at least 117 Palestinians have been wounded in clashes with Israeli police at a mosque in Jerusalem. Police entered Al-Aqsa Mosque compound early Friday, igniting clashes with Palestinians
Medics say at least 117 Palestinians have been wounded in clashes with Israeli police at a major holy site in Jerusalem.
Police entered the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound early Friday, igniting clashes with Palestinians who had gathered for morning prayers during the holy month of Ramadan.
Israeli authorities say masked men had marched to the mosque and were stockpiling stones and other objects in anticipation of violence.
The site is the third holiest in Islam and the holiest for Jews, who refer to it as the Temple Mount. It is often a flashpoint in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The Palestinian Red Crescent emergency service provided an updated toll of wounded. Israeli police say at least three officers were wounded by rocks thrown at them.
Israel said its forces entered to remove rocks and stones that had been gathered in anticipation of violence. The holy site, which is sacred to Jews and Muslims, has often been the epicentre of Israeli-Palestinian unrest, and tensions were already heightened amid a recent wave of violence. Clashes at the site last year helped spark an 11-day war with Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip.
The clashes come at a particularly sensitive time. Ramadan this year coincides with Passover, a major weeklong Jewish holiday beginning Friday at sundown, and Christian holy week, which culminates on Easter Sunday. The holidays are expected to bring tens of thousands of faithful into Jerusalem's Old City, home to major sites sacred to all three religions.
Videos circulating online showed Palestinians hurling rocks and fireworks and police firing tear gas and stun grenades on the sprawling esplanade surrounding the mosque. Others showed worshippers barricading themselves inside the mosque itself amid what appeared to be clouds of tear gas.
The Palestinian Red Crescent emergency service said it evacuated 67 people to hospitals who had been wounded by rubber-coated bullets or stun grenades, or beaten with batons. The endowment said one of the guards at the site was shot in the eye with a rubber bullet.
The Israeli police said three officers were wounded from massive stone-throwing, with two evacuated from the scene for treatment.
The Israeli Foreign Ministry said dozens of masked men carrying Palestinian and Hamas flags marched to the compound early Friday and gathered stones.
Police were forced to enter the grounds to disperse the crowd and remove the stones and rocks, in order to prevent further violence, it tweeted.