At least 42 Palestinians were injured as fresh clashes erupted Thursday between protesters and police in Jerusalem’s Old City after thousands of Muslim worshipers gathered around the contested Temple Mount holy site for evening prayers.
The violence came as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was meeting with his security chiefs and the security cabinet over ways to defuse tensions at the site ahead of Friday prayers, when tens of thousands of Muslim worshipers are expected — sparking fears of even fiercer confrontation.
Israeli police spokeswoman Luba Samri said Palestinians threw rocks and glass bottles at the officers outside the Old City’s Lions Gate following evening prayers. Police responded with tear gas and riot dispersal methods. Samri said 5 officers were hurt.
The Palestinian Red Crescent said that 36 of the protesters were taken to the hospital for treatment. Two of them were in serious condition after being hit by rubber bullets.
HAPPENING NOW – JERUSALEM: Heavy Muslim riots in the Old City near the Lions Gate. At least 15 terrorists injured from rubber bullets. pic.twitter.com/A3AAdg8jUn
— Behind The News (@Behind__News) July 20, 2017
The skirmishes came ahead of Friday prayers, when tens of thousands of Muslim worshipers are expected to visit the site, known to Jews as the Temple Mount and to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary. Enraged Palestinians have protested against metal detectors installed at the site following a deadly terror attack last week, and have refused to go through the detectors.
After returning from an overseas visit on Thursday evening, Netanyahu headed to Tel Aviv to meet with his security chiefs to discuss whether to remove the new metal detectors.They were installed last Sunday, after three Arab-Israeli gunmen killed two Israeli police officers there on Friday.
Later in the evening Netanyahu convened the top-level security cabinet for a meeting about the situation.
Massive reinforcements have been sent to Jerusalem, while police are also said to be planning to limit the number of Muslim worshipers allowed to enter the Temple Mount on Friday and blocking entry to the capital from other areas of the country.
Thousands of troops and police are slated to be deployed in Jerusalem and the West Bank.
The increased security measures at the compound were introduced Sunday after police said the three attackers who emerged armed from the compound and shot at police on Friday had stashed their weapons on the Temple Mount.
Earlier Thursday, police released video footage showing how the killers and an accomplice got the guns into the Temple Mount compound.
Since the appearance of the detectors there have been daily protests outside the Lions Gate entrance to the Temple Mount compound, the scene of the deadly terror attack. Muslim worshipers who refused to pass through the detectors have instead prayed outside the gate.
There have also been violent clashes between rioters and police in various East Jerusalem neighborhoods.
Hamas on Thursday called for mass protests on Friday against the metal detectors.
Israel initially closed the site as it searched for further weapons. The compound, which houses the Al-Aqsa mosque and the Dome of the Rock, was reopened Sunday with the metal detectors installed, a step Palestinians protest as a change to the longstanding status quo. The Temple Mount is the holiest place to Jews, as the site of the biblical temples, and the third holiest in Islam.
On Wednesday both Palestinian and Israeli sources said a US-brokered compromise could see the walk-through metal detector gates cleared from the holy site as demanded by Jordanian and Palestinian clerics. Instead, police would use hand-held metal detector wands (similar to those employed by security guards at Israeli malls), but only on those deemed to be suspicious. This idea was not accepted as of Thursday night, however.