In skirmishes with Israeli riot police within Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa mosque compound on Friday, at least 152 Palestinians were injured, the latest in a recent increase of violence that has fueled fears of a return to wider conflict.
According to the Palestine Red Crescent, the majority of the Palestinian injuries were caused by rubber bullets, stun grenades, and police baton beatings at the most sensitive site in the decades-long Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Following a string of deadly Arab street attacks across the country over the past two weeks, Israeli security forces have been on high alert. Confrontations at the Al-Aqsa site in Jerusalem’s walled Old City raise the possibility of a recurrence of last year’s Gaza conflict.
The Al-Aqsa compound, which is known to Muslims as al-Haram al-Sharif, or The Noble Sanctuary, and to Jews as Temple Mount, is located atop the Old City plateau of East Jerusalem, which was taken by Israel in the 1967 Middle East conflict.
The fact that Ramadan falls on the same day as the Jewish holiday of Passover has added to the tensions this year.
After Ramadan morning prayers, hundreds of Palestinians hurled firecrackers and stones at Israeli police and toward the nearby Jewish prayer place of the Western Wall in the Old City, according to an Israeli police statement.
It was then that police entered the Al-Aqsa compound to ‘disperse and push back (the crowd) and allow the rest of the pilgrims to exit the location safely,’ according to the report. Three officers were injured in the clashes.
Hundreds of Palestinians were detained by Israeli police, according to a tweet from Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s spokeswoman.
‘On the Temple Mount and throughout Israel, we are fighting to restore tranquilly. In addition, we are planning for any scenario, and our security forces are prepared to handle any situation,’ Bennett remarked.
According to a Palestinian official, Egypt, Qatar, and the United Nations have increased their mediation efforts between Palestinian groups – led by the Islamist group Hamas, which controls Gaza – and Israel in order to avert further escalation of bloodshed.
Hamas asked that Israel release over 500 individuals imprisoned on Friday, prohibit Jewish groups from making ‘provocative trips’ to the Al-Aqsa mosque, and stop military incursions into West Bank cities.
According to Palestinians, Israel released all but 100 of those imprisoned, indicating a reduction in hostilities.
In response to the violence in the holy compound, the Palestinian Foreign Ministry stated that it ‘holds Israel totally and directly responsible for this crime and its consequences.’
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