Al Quds, 22 Ramadan 1437/27 June 2016 (MINA) – Palestinian worshippers clashed with Israeli police at East Jerusalem’s flashpoint Al-Aqsa Mosque compound on Sunday morning, according to mosque officials.
The confrontations began after Israeli police forcibly opened a gate to the mosque compound used for tourists and Jewish visitors, mosque director Sheikh Omar Kiswani told Anadolu Agency as Memo reported.
He described the events as “unprecedented” during the last 10 days of the Muslim holy month Ramadan. Kiswani said five Palestinians were injured.
Israeli police spokesperson Micky Rosenfeld said four masked Palestinians were arrested for disrupting the visit.
Contrary to claims from mosque officials, Rosenfeld said it was not true that non-Muslim visits to the mosque compound were suspended during the last 10 days of Ramadan, adding that security arrangements would continue as usual.
Jerusalem-based activist group Wadi Hilweh Information Center posted videos on social media of armed police stationed around the mosque complex and claimed that rubber bullets and sound grenades were used during the confrontation.
Muslims place particular importance on the last 10 days of Ramadan, which sees an increase in visitors to the mosque for tarawih (nightly) prayers.
Visiting times and prayer rights at the mosque for non-Muslims have been an ongoing source of tension between Palestinians and Israeli police.
For Muslims, Al-Aqsa represents the world’s third holiest site. Jews, for their part, refer to the area as the “Temple Mount,” claiming it was the site of two Jewish temples in ancient times.
Some extremist Jewish groups have called for the demolition of the Al-Aqsa Mosque so that a Jewish temple might be built in its place.
In late 2000, a visit to the site by controversial Israeli politician Ariel Sharon sparked what later became known as the “Second Intifada” – a popular uprising against the Israeli occupation in which thousands of Palestinians were killed.
Israel occupied East Jerusalem during the 1967 Middle East War. It later annexed the city in 1980, claiming it as the capital of the Jewish state in a move never recognised by the international community. (T/P008/R03)
Mi’raj Islamic News Agency (MINA)