Israeli riot police fire stun grenades and tear gas at Palestinians worshippers at contested holy site


Israeli riot police have fired stun grenades and tear gas inside al Aqsa Mosque in clashes with Palestinian worshippers in the early hours of Wednesday morning. 

Twelve Palestinians were reportedly injured according to the Palestinian Red Crescent and dozens were arrested. Video footage from inside the mosque shows police beating Palestinians.

The incident occurred after several hundred Palestinians remained in the mosque after Ramadan prayers on Tuesday night.

Israeli police say they tried to clear them peacefully but a small group refused to leave and they were armed with fireworks and rocks.

Israeli Border Police were deployed near the Damascus Gate to the Old City of Jerusalem during the raid
Israeli border police were deployed near the Damascus Gate to the Old City of Jerusalem during the raid

Jordan and Egypt, who have both been involved in peace talks to keep the calm during Ramadan, issued strong statements condemning the actions of Israeli police.

In response, nine rockets were fired from the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip setting off air raid sirens in Israeli towns nearby.

A number of the missiles were intercepted by Israel’s Iron Dome defence system, but some fell in open areas. The local council in the town of Sderot said a factory was hit, but there were no reports of injuries.

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In a separate incident, a Palestinian teenager was injured after police opened fire on a group in the east Jerusalem district of Silwan.

Israeli police detain a Palestinian worshipper at the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in the Old City of Jerusalem
Israeli police detain a Palestinian worshipper at the al Aqsa Mosque compound in the Old City of Jerusalem

Police say he tried to open the door of a security vehicle and throw a Molotov cocktail inside. The teenager is reportedly in a stable condition.

The clashes in al Aqsa compound in Jerusalem’s old city, came at the start of the Jewish festival of Passover. Every year, a small group of Jewish activists try to slaughter a goat in the area known as Haram al Sharif to Muslims and also known as the Temple Mount, the holiest site in Judaism.

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Although Israeli police stop the slaughter from taking place, it heightens tensions amongst Palestinians fearful it will undermine the fragile status quo that allows Jews to visit the site but not pray there.

Israel and the occupied Palestinian West Bank are experiencing one of the deadliest years in decades, however, despite fears that the violence could spiral out of control, the Muslim holy month of Ramadan had been relatively quiet until now.

The coincidence of Ramadan and Passover, for a second year running, has meant tensions have been high in Jerusalem and will remain so over the coming days.

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