Israeli police entered Jerusalem’s Temple Mount compound on Friday to disperse hundreds of Palestinians who, for the second Friday in succession, emerged from prayers to throw rocks at security forces near the entrance to the compound.
Rioters also threw two molotov cocktails at officers from inside the al-Aqsa Mosque, in what Jerusalem police chief Yossi Pariente said was “a new level of escalation.” Both petrol bombs exploded, and one of them set fire to the foot of an Israeli policeman, who quickly put out the blaze without serious injury.
Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said Palestinian worshipers rioted after Friday Muslim prayers at the holy site in the Old City. Four people were arrested on suspicion of involvement in the riots, the police said.
Rosenfeld said police dispersed the crowd with stun grenades.
Nine officers were slightly injured by masked Palestinians who threw rocks and two firebombs, but police did not enter the mosque itself. A photographer with the Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth was also injured when a rock struck him in the face.
Thirty-five Palestinians were lightly injured in the clashes, according to Palestinian sources.
The contested site, where the al-Aqsa Mosque compound is built above the ruins of the biblical Jewish Temple, is one of the region’s most volatile.
Israeli steps to quell Palestinian disturbances there have led to full-blown riots in the past.
In past weeks, tempers have been flaring throughout the West Bank, with many clashes between Palestinians and Israeli security forces and swirling talk of a “Third Intifada,” or popular uprising, in the offing.
On Thursday, a Palestinian man, who was shot by IDF soldiers during clashes near Ramallah two weeks earlier, died in an Israeli hospital. Mohammed Asfour was laid to rest on Friday.
Several Palestinians and three Israeli journalists were injured at that demonstration, which took place at the Beitunia military checkpoint near Ofer Prison outside Ramallah.
Protesters were calling for the release of Palestinian inmates who were on a hunger strike.
A soldier was lightly injured Friday by a stone thrown by Palestinians during a riot near the West Bank settlement of Tekoa. The soldier was taken to Jerusalem’s Hadassah Hospital Ein Kerem for treatment.