The Al-Aqsa mosque on the Temple Mount was the scene of clashes between Palestinian youths and Israeli police Wednesday morning, the latest in a series of skirmishes as Jewish pilgrims have flocked to the site over the holiday.
After Palestinians in the courtyard began stone-throwing and rioting, police officers stormed the compound. Ma’an News Agency reported that police fired stun grenades at the rioters. Seven Palestinians were injured, according to Ma’an.
Once the unrest settled down, police exited the area to wait by the Mughrabi Gate overlooking the Western Wall.
The sensitive Temple Mount area, holy to both Muslims and Jews, is controlled by the Muslim Waqf, but security is overseen by Israel. Non-Muslims are allowed to visit, but all non-Muslim religious ritual is banned.
Tensions have been heightened on the Temple Mount during the Jewish holiday season, which ends Thursday night.
On Tuesday morning, Jerusalem police closed the Temple Mount to non-Muslim visitors, citing security concerns — a surprise announcement that caused many holiday pilgrims and tourists to be turned away at the site.
“Security assessments were made, due to the fact that there was general intelligence that there would be disturbances on the Temple Mount, and therefore, for security reasons, we’ve closed the Temple Mount to visitors for the moment,” Israel Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld told the Times of Israel.
Rosenfeld said the closure applied to “visitors, Christians and Jews,” but that Muslims still had access.
The Temple Mount closure came during the Sukkot holiday, which traditionally sees increased Jewish visits to the Temple Mount, and several days after two Israeli soldiers were killed in separate West Bank incidents, leading to fears of renewed violence.
However, defense officials said that they do not expect a significant rise in violence as a result of the killings
Last Wednesday, worshipers threw stones at Israeli police officers, injuring two. One policeman was taken to hospital for medical treatment for wounds to his face.
Just before the Jewish New Year, on September 4, 15 Palestinians were arrested after fighting with police, and hundreds of Muslims were denied access.
Security forces have been on high alert during the entire holiday period.
Gavriel Fiske contributed to this report.