Dozens of Muslim protesters clashed with Israeli security forces at the al-Aqsa Mosque compound on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem for a third consecutive day on Tuesday.
Young protesters gathered around the mosque threw stones at police who had entered the compound in large numbers and who responded with stun grenades, AFP reported. The protesters also hurled fireworks and blocks at police, Israel’s Ynet website said.
The protesters, who had apparently gathered at the site overnight, had prepared barricades to prevent one of the doors of the mosque from being closed by police, Ynet reported. When the Mount opened on Tuesday morning, they began throwing stones at the Mughrabi Gate, which grants access to the site from the Western Wall plaza below and is the only gate that can be used by non-Muslims, and continued to do so until police arrived.
The police moved in to the site in order to ensure that visits to the Temple Mount could go ahead as planned, Israel’s Walla website reported. The police managed to close the barricaded door to the mosque, leaving the protesters inside, and said that visits to the site were able to resume.
Police spokeswoman Luba Samri said police entered the mosque compound early Wednesday morning to disperse a group of protesters who were throwing rocks and firecrackers. She said the crowd was dispersed and no one was injured or arrested.
The round of violence began Sunday morning, with security forces seizing pipe bombs at the flashpoint site — holy to Jews and Muslims — in an operation carried out hours before Jews prepared to celebrate the new year. The Shin Bet security service alerted police to the cache, apparently an effort by Palestinians to stock up on bombs, flares and rocks ahead of an organized riot.
On Monday, a policeman and a young Jewish man were hurt as the clashes resumed. Nine people were also arrested.
Police chief Bentzi Sau vowed Sunday that protesters would not be allowed to threaten security of visitors to the site, while Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan warned that access to the site could be affected by the discovery of the pipe bombs.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will meet Tuesday evening with senior political and defense officials to discuss Israel’s response to the outbreak of violence.
Police said Sunday that they entered the hilltop compound to ensure that Muslim youths massing there did not harass Jews or tourists during the morning visiting hours. They said they found pipe bombs and other weapons at the holy site.