Palestinians and Israeli police engaged in fresh skirmishes Thursday morning on Jerusalem’s Temple Mount, amid increased tensions in the city that have fueled concerns of a larger flare-up.
According to police, dozens of masked rioters entered al-Aqsa Mosque and sealed the doors before starting to hurl rocks and fireworks at officers, who responded with riot dispersal means.
The Red Crescent said 20 Palestinians were wounded in the clashes. Several were believed to have been injured by tear gas. Earlier, Palestinian media reports claimed that one man was wounded by a rubber bullet.
The clashes come amid heightened tensions on the final day that Jewish visitors are allowed to access the site ahead of a closure until the end of Ramadan.
Palestinian media reported that one person was injured by a rubber bullet.
The clashes came as Jews were allowed to visit the Temple Mount for the last time until Ramadan ends on May 2, as part of a years-long policy of barring non-Muslims from the site during the final 10 days of the Muslim holy month.
Video showed Jewish visitors touring the site as Thursday’s clashes raged, with smoke and the sound of blasts coming from the direction of the mosque.
The Temple Mount is a frequent flashpoint of Israeli-Palestinian tensions, with clashes there last year helping precipitate the 11-day military conflict between Israel and terror groups in the Gaza Strip after the enclave’s Hamas rulers fired rockets at Jerusalem. The site is the most sacred place for Jews as the location of the biblical temples, and al-Aqsa Mosque, which sits atop the Temple Mount, is the third-holiest site for Muslims.
Under existing arrangements, non-Muslims are barred from praying at the Temple Mount and may only visit at certain times.
הר הבית: מתפללים יהודים עולים להר; פורעים מיידים לעברם זיקוקים מתוך המסגד pic.twitter.com/d84oUDgyfI
— יערה אברהם | Yaara Avraham (@yaara_avraham) April 21, 2022
Police also announced the arrest of seven East Jerusalem residents over rioting at al-Aqsa on Wednesday, when Palestinians inside the mosque threw firebombs and stones at police.
Jerusalem has been a tinderbox in recent weeks as Palestinians scraped with police on the flashpoint Temple Mount, the Ramadan and Passover holidays drew thousands to holy sites, Israeli security forces cracked down on terror in the West Bank, and Gaza terror groups stoked the flames.
On Thursday, the leader of Hamas said “we are still at the beginning of the battle” and warned Israel over the Temple Mount.
“As we defeated the so-called Flag March, we will defeat the policy of invading [al-Aqsa],” Ismail Haniyeh said, after police barred Jewish nationalists from marching through the Old City’s Damascus Gate on Wednesday.
His comments came after Israel and Gaza-based terrorists clashed in the largest exchange of fire since last year’s fighting, with the military carrying out air raids in the Strip in response to rocket fire and the launch of anti-aircraft missiles.
No Israelis were directly injured by the rocket fire earlier in the night, but three people were lightly wounded in falls that took place while running to bomb shelters. All of them were evacuated to Ashkelon’s Barzilai Medical Center for further treatment before being released shortly thereafter, according to the hospital.
No Gaza group immediately took responsibility for either of the night’s launches, as had been the case after the week’s first rocket launch on Monday evening. However, several media reports citing Israeli security officials pegged Hamas-rival Palestinian Islamic Jihad as responsible for the Monday rocket fire.
This week’s rocket fire ended an almost four-month period of quiet on the Gaza border.