Israeli police and Palestinian pilgrims clash at a holy site in Jerusalem

Muslim worshippers perform Friday prayers outside the Dome of Rock Mosque at the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in the Old City of Jerusalem during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, March 31, 2023. (Photo: AP)

Early in the morning, Israeli police entered the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem's Old City and attacked Palestinian worshippers, according to Palestinian media, sparking fears of escalating tensions as Islamic and Jewish holidays coincide.

The events provoked a surge of Palestinian demonstrations, condemnations, and bloodshed. The Israeli military said rocket-warning sirens sounded in Israeli areas surrounding the Gaza Strip.

Tensions have been high in east Jerusalem and the West Bank for months, and the convergence of the Muslim holy fast month and Passover has fueled worries of fresh violence.

Such confrontations at the contested holy compound, the third most sacred shrine in Islam and the most religious site in Judaism, also known as the Temple Mount, have provoked fatal cross-border conflicts between Israel and Gaza's Hamas authorities, most recently which occurred in 2021.

Videos on social media showed Israeli police officers hitting Palestinians with batons and rifle butts at a mosque on a disputed hilltop location revered by Muslims and Jews.

Wafa, the official Palestinian news agency, said that scores of worshippers, who spend the entire night praying during Ramadan, were hurt during a police raid on the mosque.

It was initially unclear what precipitated the violence. The Israeli police claimed to have used force to evict congregants barricaded in the mosque with fireworks, rocks, and clubs. They stated that a stone wounded an officer's leg and that scores of "rioters" were apprehended.

49-year-old Talab Abu Eisha reported that about 400 men, women, and children were worshipping at Al-Aqsa when the police encircled the mosque.

"The youths were afraid and began closing the doors," he added, adding that police officers "beating and arresting men in the eastern corner."

"It was an unprecedented scene of violence in terms of police brutality and intent to harm the youths," he claimed, refuting police assertions that the youths were concealing pyrotechnics and rocks. He claimed that the police banned all men under 50 from entering the Old City through the gates leading to the prayer compound in the morning.

The violence in Jerusalem prompted Palestinian protests and condemnation. In Gaza, Hamas called for large-scale rallies, and people began to assemble in the streets, with demands to march to the tightly guarded Gaza-Israel border for more violent confrontations.

The Palestinian government condemned the assault on worshippers. Nabil Abu Rudeineh, the spokesperson for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, warned Israel that such a move "exceeds all red lines and will result in a massive explosion."

In Gaza, the Palestinian militant organizations Hamas and Islamic Jihad called on Palestinians from Jerusalem, the West Bank, and Israel to resist Israeli forces at Al-Aqsa Mosque.

According to the Israeli military, militants in Gaza fired two barrages of rockets at southern Israel. Four of the five intercepted missiles fell in open regions. There were no reported injuries or property damage.

Earlier on Tuesday, a Palestinian suspect stabbed two Israelis near an army camp south of Tel Aviv, according to police. This is the most recent episode in a yearlong escalation of violence that shows no sign of abating.

The Magen David Adom paramedic service said first responders treated two males for severe and minor stab wounds during an incident near the Tsrifin military base. The injured guys were transported to a local hospital for treatment.

Israeli media reported that the two victims were soldiers.

According to police, civilians captured the alleged assailant, who was then taken into custody for questioning.

The Israeli military has conducted near-nightly raids on Palestinian cities, towns, and villages. At the same time, Palestinians have carried out countless attacks on Israelis over the past year, resulting in a significant increase in Israeli-Palestinian violence.

88 Palestinians or more have been killed by Israeli fire this year, according to a report by the Associated Press. In the same time frame, 15 Israelis were slain by Palestinian attacks.

Publish : 2023-04-05 10:25:00

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